Visit Atlantic City

Published on Friday, January 8, 2021

Navigating your way through India's complex visa system

India's visa system is among the most complicated in the world, notorious for the sheer number of available visas and difficulties in navigating the official website. Furthermore, rules regularly change. For instance, until the beginning of 2019, the e-visa for India was only valid for 60 days. In April 2019, the validity of the e-visa for tourists and business travellers was extended to one year. Since a few months, a visa that is valid for one month and a visa valid for five years have also been introduced. For most travellers, one of these three e-visa is sufficient for a trip to India. However, travellers that do not meet the e-visa requirements must apply for a physical (paper) visa at the embassy. This article explains which visa must be applied for in which cases.

What type of visa should I apply for?
There are two types of visas available for India: the e-visa India (also known as Electronic Visa, eTourist Visa, eBusiness Visa, eMedical Visa or ETA) and the physical visa (as a sticker in the passport). The e-visa can be applied for on the website of the Immigration Department or at a visa agency, while the physical visa can only be applied for at Indian Embassy. Strictly speaking, the embassy has outsourced all visa matters, and applications are handled by VFS Global.

Travellers who meet the e-visa requirements are advised to apply for this visa instead of the physical visa. This is due to the fact that the e-visa for India can be applied for entirely online, removing the need to visit the embassy. Applying for a visa sticker at the embassy takes longer and is usually more expensive than applying for an e-visa. In addition, in order to apply for a physical visa, your passport must be handed in and picked up again at a later date. So at minimum, you need to make two trips to the embassy. The e-visa, on the other hand, is issued digitally and sent by e-mail after approval.

There are five types of e-visa for India. The most important ones are the eTourist visa (for tourists and travellers visiting friends or relatives in India), the eBusiness visa (for business travellers) and the eMedical visa (for travellers going to India for medical treatment). The eTourist visa is in turn divided into three types of visas, each with a different period of validity; one month, one year or five years. It is generally not recommended applying for the visa with a validity of one month. Travellers have reported problems with this type of visa, as the validity starts within 30 days after applying. This can result in the visa already having expired before the start of the trip, or halfway during the trip. The visa with a validity of one year is suitable for people who want to travel to India for a single trip, and for people who want to travel to the country several times (within one year). Travellers who already know that they will travel to India multiple times in the next five years should apply for a five-year visa.

There are some general requirements tied to this visa. For example, tourists are not allowed to stay in India for more than 90 days, business travellers for more than 180 days and medical visa holders for more than 60 consecutive days. You are not allowed to work, study or do an internship in India with an e-visa. In addition, the e-visa only allows you to arrive at  India at specific airports and seaports

Permitted airports

AMD - Ahmedabad 

ATQ - Amritsar 

IXB - Siliguri 

BBI - Bhubaneswar 

BLR - Bangalore 

CCJ - Calicut 

MAA - Chennai / Madras 

IXC - Chandigarh 

COK - Kochi / Cochin 

CJB - Coimbatore / Kovai 

DEL - Delhi 

GAY - Gaya 

GOI - Dabolim (Goa)

GAU - Guwahati 

HYD - Hyderabad 

JAI - Jaipur 

CCU - Calcutta 

LKO - Lucknow 

IXM - Madurai 

IXE - Mangaluru (Mangalore)

BOM - Mumbai / Bombay 

NAG - Nagpur 

IXZ - Port Blair 

PNQ - Pune / Poona

TRZ - Tiruchirapalli / Trichinopoly

TRV - Thiruvananthapuram / Trivandrum 

VNS - Varanasi / Benares 

VTZ - Visakhapatnam 

Permitted seaports

Chennai (Madras)

Kochi (Cochin)

New Mangalore

Mumbai (Bombay)

Mormugao (Goa)

Physical visa
Individuals who are not travelling to India for a holiday, on business or for medical treatment, and travellers who wish to stay in India for a longer period of time or who do not meet any of the other requirements for use of the electronic Indian visa cannot obtain an e-visa and must apply for a physical visa.

The physical visa can only be applied for at the Indian Embassy. An appointment must be made in advance, and the passport must be handed in and picked up at a later date. The Indian Embassy has outsourced the procedures of visa applications to VFS Global, who have application centres worldwide. Officially, the physical visa is not applied for at the embassy itself, but at VFS Global. VFS has offices in London, Dublin and most other European capitals. All visits require an appointment to be made, and waiting times can be long.

Visa application using a visa agency
Due to India's notoriously difficult visa system, many travellers fail to submit their applications using the immigration service's own website. The information asked for on the forms is often ambiguous and any error, no matter how small, will result in a failed application. In addition, travellers have reported problems with uploading the required documents (a passport scan and a passport photo) in the correct format. An often-used solution to this issue is having your visa application processed via a visa agency, such as

Visa agencies come with both benefits and downsides, and it's up to each traveller if they want to make use of them. The most obvious danger is of course scamming. Numerous websites promise to get you a visa, but the prices listed there are sometimes double or triple that of the normal price. It is therefore very important you use a reputable visa agency. is certified by independent rating bureaus, and has all of its customer reviews freely available on its website. The visa forms use clear language, and each form is manually checked for errors. More importantly, uploading the documents is extremely easy, as the documents are automatically trimmed in the right format and uploaded with the right proportions. To guarantee results, all rejected visa applications are always refunded in full, regardless of the reason.

Story Image

Your Comments

, be the first to post a comment.
Your email:

Email other comments made to this story

NOTE: Comments are subject to admin approval before being posted.
Mole Poll
Have you seen a surge in demand for US trips?


UKinbound are in Manchester for the Annual Convention - What can you expect?

Qatar moved from red to amber list: Phil Dickinson details the growth plans for the destination

Japan - The bucket list destination - five experts describe a life in the day of a visitor

Lonely Planet launch UK Road trip Guide

Ottawa - Capital of Canada is open for business and ready for visitors