India Travel Visa for Americans


Planning a trip to India? The adventure of getting a visa is thwart with your first dangers. You better pack millennial technical skills and watch out for bogus websites...

In recent news it's becoming more difficult to travel as an American. In the last few days the EU passed a non-binding resolution recommending visas for Americans who want to travel to Europe. Pre-Trump, Americans were often able to travel almost anywhere by just showing up. However, things are changing.

A few years ago, I landed in Cairo and simply paid a small amount of money (around $15) at the airport for a visa to Egypt. The list of visas in my passport have taught me the pain and anguish that comes with the process. Most of mine have been student visas and cost around $300-$600. They're not cheap. My latest is a e-tourist visa through India, which was approved last night.

After divulging my religion, my parents birth origins, birthmarks and having a reference for someone in India, I paid the $60 to India and crossed my fingers that everything was going to be okay. It's a nail biting experience since I've already purchased my tickets to Bangalore.

I'm very lucky in that I'm technically minded but the process is filled with dangers. The photo has to be a particular size, on a certain background and in a certain format. The copy of your passport has to be converted to PDF, which I found particularly interesting since no matter what you do, a full page passport page almost always exceeds India's 300 KB limit. Plus, who has a scanner these days? (Luckily, I do.) I had to download two pieces of software before being able to compress the image to meet their upload limits. While the process was quite easy for me, I can imagine many people, especially older individuals, having a heart-attack simply trying to apply.

Furthermore, there are several fake agencies with websites so similar to India's official website that charge 2-5x the cost of the actual visa. I have no idea if they actually come through with an official visa or not but there's a long list of threads on TripAdvisor where Americans have been scammed.

So here's my experience on how to get a visa for India as an American:
  1. Find a bright light and white background and selfie yourself for the photo. Email it to yourself and save it to your desktop. Worry less about the dimensions as India's website will crop it for you. The picture should include shoulders, neck and face with no glasses and your hair down. If the image you take is too big, use Ifranview to compress it to Jpeg.
  2. Scan your passport. I imagine Kinko's can do it for you if you don't have a scanner.
  3. Convert the passport image to PDF. I simply printed to PDF from Windows.
  4. If your PDF is larger than 300KB, use ilovepdf.com to compress it, choosing "Extreme Compression", as the option.
  5. Get a reference for someone in India, including their phone number and address.
  6. Apply online with the official website at: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in
  7. I used Paypal to pay the $60 ($62.10 with fees) utilizing the SBIe-pay option (State Bank of India).
If granted, you end up with an email merely saying it was granted:


**When you get the email, log back in under "Check Status", and print your official visa.

How quick does it happen? Well, real quick. They quote 72 hours but received mine in less than 24. I applied at noon on a Saturday, Eastern Standard Time and it was accepted at 1:14 PM. Finally approval was granted and came in at 3:40 AM to my email account about 14 hours later, for a total processing time of about 15 hours. I even forgot to put my middle name on the application as a part of my given name, but found that they corrected it for me and approved the application automatically.

So despite the technical know-how needed, it was super easy and I'm ready to get myself to India in just a few weeks. 

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