The process for obtaining a travel visa to India has become more simplified, allowing US passport holders the ability to apply for an electronic travel authorization just days before their trip and then obtain a visa upon arrival.
Note that this guide does not take into account any additional, temporary requirements in place during the Covid pandemic. For the most up-to-date Covid requirements, visit the India embassy website.
- Visa needed for US citizens: Yes
- Visa types for US citizens: E-tourist visa or transit visa
- Visa application: Online
- Visa issued: By mail
- Cost: $10-$80 for e-tourist visa and for transit visa
- Timing: 4-120 days in advance
- Length of validity: 30 days to 10 years for e-tourist visa and 15 days for transit visa
- Max length of stay: 30 days to 6 months for e-tourist visa and 72 hours for transit visa
Without this authorization, you cannot obtain a visa upon arrival. Travel information may change without warning for travel to India, so it’s important to always check the Indian Embassy’s website before your trip.
American travelers have the option to apply directly online with the Indian Embassy in Washington DC, or you can use Cox & Kings Global Services, which is the only official visa contractor for India.
Who Needs a Visa to Visit India?
- All American travelers planning to visit India (and who will be passing through immigration with plans of travel within India) will need a valid visa.
- American travelers who are only transiting through India and plan to remain in the transit area that is designated as the international passenger transit area will not need to apply for a visa.
- Transit visas can be granted for US nationals who have a connecting flight in India but will be passing through immigration. If your flight from India is within 72 hours of landing, you plan to stay in an airport hotel, or you have a connecting flight from the domestic airport, you’ll need to apply for a transit visa.
What Types of Visas are Available for US Citizens?
Tourism: With the e-Tourist visa, the options for US passport holders are a seasonal 30-day visa, a one-year visa, or a five-year visa.
With Cox & Kings Global Services (CKGS), you usually apply for a multiple-entry tourist visa. This visa allows you to stay up to six months for each visit, from the date of entry. The longest duration of a tourist visa could be ten years (which is the option via Cox & Kings Global Services). If you are of Indian origin with a US passport, there is a special tourist visa that is longer in duration than ten years.
Transit: Transit visas can be single entry or double entry, depending on the circumstances. This type of visa is valid for entry within 15 days from when it was issued. It cannot be extended, so if you plan to stay beyond 72 hours, you should apply for a tourist visa.
The decision on the visa duration is subjective and is at the sole discretion of the Indian Embassy. CKGS has no influence on the decision process, which means you could receive a visa that is not for the full duration you expected.
How to Apply for an Indian Visa:
There are two ways to apply for your India visa. The first is by using the e-visa online application on the dedicated India visa website. The second method is through the Cox & Kings Global Services website.
Required Documents and Information
To apply through the Indian Embassy online you’ll need:
- Passport, with at least six months validity from the date you plan to arrive in India and two blank pages for immigration to stamp when you arrive in India.
- Copy of your return ticket or onward flight information and proof that shows that you can support yourself during your stay in India.
- Recent passport-sized photo, 2” x 2” on a white background, to upload.
You will need all the documentation mentioned above if you apply through CKGS as well. The system may ask for additional documentation, depending on the answers you supply during the online application process. The system provides you with an individualized required document checklist once you reach that part of the application.
The e-visa prices through the Indian Embassy are as follows:
- 30-Day e-Tourist Visa (July to March) $25
- 30-Day e-Tourist Visa (April to June) $10
- One-year e-Tourist Visa $40
- Five-year e-Tourist Visa $80
The embassy will also assess a 2.5% bank charge on your e-Tourist visa fee when applying. However, these are the only fees you need to pay. Watch for people trying to charge you additional fees when you arrive at the airport.
The cost of using CKGS is higher than applying directly with the e-Tourist visa program. You will pay the applicable government cost for the visa you choose, plus another $3 for the Indian Community Welfare Fund and a service fee of $19.90 per application. This means that if you are applying for four travelers, you would have four $19.90 service fees. You could have additional charges for couriers if you mail your application and have it sent back to you.
These fees can add up quickly for families traveling to India. Payments have to be made separately for each applicant as well. Payments must be made with a money order, cashier’s check, pay order, etc. No cash or personal checks accepted. If you want to pay by credit card, there will be a convenience fee charge added as well.
When applying through the Indian Embassy’s e-Visa program, you need to submit your application a minimum of four days before your intended arrival in India. You can apply up to 120 days in advance of your travel dates. Your application should be processed within 72 hours, but it can take longer in some cases. You can check the status of your e-Visa application online as well.
The processing time will vary when using CKGS. You need to make an appointment when submitting, which will tell you the expected processing time. This is lengthier than the e-Visa option because you have to mail in documents or make an in-person appointment. Given the uncertainty, you should not wait until the last minute if you opt to apply through CKGS.
How to Apply
Travelers choosing to apply using the Indian Embassy’s dedicated website need to complete these steps:
- Click on the e-Visa application link.
- Accurately enter all of your information. Be sure to enter your name exactly as it is on your passport, as many people receive denials for reasons like failing to include their middle name. There is a sample application online you can refer to if you need assistance.
- Don’t forget to answer all of the questions about criminal history.
- Upload your passport-sized photo.
- Upload a copy of your passport personal information page.
- Click the PAY NOW option. If you choose to pay later, your application won’t be processed until payment is received.
- Look for e-mail confirmation and your ETA (electronic travel authorization).
- Print your ETA and bring a copy to the Immigration desk when you arrive in India to present with your passport.
It’s important to point out that the e-Visa is only valid for American travelers arriving through one of the 28 approved airports or five seaports. This visa is not valid for land crossings not included in the list.
American travelers applying through CKGS have additional steps to complete. The process is as follows:
- Complete the online process for the CKGS application. Note: you will be directed to the Government of India website at one point and then back to CKGS to finalize your application.
- You must then submit your physical application to the CKGS Application Center that is assigned to you in the application. The location selected is based on where you currently reside in the U.S. You can either submit by mail or walk the application into the application center the system assigns.
- Print out and sign your completed forms.
- You must arrange your documents precisely in the same order as the application checklist shows.
- Mark off the boxes on the two checklists as you put the documents in the envelope.
- Put one copy of the document checklist in the envelope and keep the other for your records. Note: you must prepare a separate application package for each visa. You cannot mail multiple visa applications together.
- CKGS has stringent rules on shipping couriers and payments, so be sure to review the requirements carefully.
- If you opted for a walk-in, you would be directed to the page to complete the appointment process. You will choose your preferred date, and if it’s not available, the next available time slot will appear.
- If you opted for the mailing option, you will receive an email from CKGS when it is received. The message will say your application has been received but not verified. The final outcome e-mail will arrive once your visa application has been processed.
Applicants visiting CKGS centers in New York or San Francisco for in-person appointments need to submit biometric enrollment. There are some limited exemptions for those who are below 12 years of age or above 70 years of age, anyone with no fingers; or applicants who hold diplomatic passports, official passports, or UN passports. There is an exception form that someone with poor fingerprints or fewer than ten digits will need to sign. Those with fewer than ten digits will still need to submit for biometrics on existing fingers as well.