Passports & Indian Tourist Visas

Passports

You'll need a valid passport to enter India. First-time applications for U.S. passports and Indian visas can take months, so apply well in advance. Renewals or subsequent visas take less time.

Consult the appropriate governmental agency in your country for a passport application. In the U.S., many larger post offices accept passport applications. Initial applications must be presented in person; renewals may be handled by mail.

For a U.S. passport, you'll need two photos taken within the past six months. The photos must be 2 1/2" by 2 1/2", full-face, front view, without a head covering, printed on thin, non-glossy paper with a plain white background. Vending machine and Polaroid prints are not acceptable. Check the application carefully to make sure you sign the photographs in the proper place.

In additition to the two passport photos, you will also need the following

Indian tourist visa

Citizens of all countries (including Commonwealth countries) need a visa to enter India. Consult the Indian embassy or consulate nearest you for details at least six weeks before you plan to leave.

You may get the application faster if you telephone. Be sure to apply to the office corresponding to your permanent home address. Visa applications vary by office. Typically one application form is used for many different types of visas. You are applying for a four-month tourist visa. Fill in only the sections required for tourists. List the purpose of your trip as "tourist." Anything else ("pilgrimage," for example) will delay your application.

Enclose a signed photograph and a photocopy of your airline ticket or a letter from your travel agent stating that you have purchased one.

In the U.S., mail the application, your passport, and payment to the embassy or consulate office by registered mail, return receipt requested. Enclose a letter stating that you want the office to return your passport and visa by registered mail, return receipt, and include payment for the extra postage. If you don't enclose such a letter, the office may return your passport by regular first-class mail, even though you've sent the extra money. Payment must usually be made by postal money order or cashier's check.

When you get your passport back, check that the visa is stamped on one of the inside pages. The dates stamped on the visa are the period within which you can enter India, generally three to six months from the time of application. The time limit of the visa begins on the date you actually enter India.