I get a lot of emails for support on getting a Indian Visa, and a lot of notes about my difficulty from before. So I figured I would try to pull together some tips and a guide for getting the Visa to help avoid some of the issues.
These steps focus on a Tourist Visa applied for in USA, since that is where I have the experience. I have not done other visas or a OCI, so I can’t provide specific OCI help, but some of the troubleshooting here might help you too.
*Note* I have heard that the processing company is changing this Summer to a different company and that in October 2014 there will be on arrival visas for most countries. If your trip is after those dates…wait on the application.
If you haven’t made plans yet, be wary of buying flights or anything non-refundable. It can take up to a month or more for processing despite what it says on the website.
First visit the BLS website and determine which BLS Location you plan to use.
There are five locations: Washington DC, New York, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, and Atlanta.
You MUST use the office that relates to where you live.
- Washington DC Office: Bermuda, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia
- New York Office: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
- Chicago Office: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
- Houston Office: Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas
- San Francisco Office: Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
- Atlanta Office: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virgin Islands.
The title of the application differs between centers, so it must match where you apply. You must use the address that matches your proof of address. Or you will get rejected.
Decide if you are going to be a walk in or postal. If you live close enough to do a walk in, it will save you time and hassle. At least in theory.
You will also need:
- Passport Photo: Make sure you are not smiling. Make sure there are no shadows on your face.
- Proof of Address: Generally your State ID or Driver’s license. You can also use utility bill or lease, but I’ve heard of people getting rejected. If you use a lease make sure both the landlord and you have signed it. Do not resize the documents.
- Decide which Visa You need: For US Passport Holders you have the option of 6month, 5 year, or 10year. The 5 and 10 year are the same price, so why choose the lower one? 6month visa is $60, while the 5 and 10 year are $150. There is also an additional $7.70 processing fees. You can pay with either Money Order or Cashier’s check. You can also pay with cash at the office. Make Money Order or Cashier’s check payable to “BLS INTERNATIONAL SERVICES USA INC”
Filling out the Application
The application is fairly long and detailed.
Some help for some of the confusing questions. If you need help with others contact me and I will try to add them to this post. I figured these were the most confusing:
- For National ID: put N/A if you are an American Citizen
- For References: For USA use a family member or someone who you know well in the USA. For India. If you don’t know anyone there, use the name of the hotel you plan to stay in when you are there. On a cruise ship? Use the cruise company’s information.
You can also save the form and fill it out later. It will give you a number put in again to restart your application. Once you submit the application it CANNOT be edited. You will be forced to start a new application. Don’t worry I probably did like 4 applications myself before I got it all correct.
Important Note: When Printing the application, make sure to resize the paper to US paper size. If the barcode does not print, it will be rejected.
Filling out the Order Form
This is probably the easiest of the forms available.
The Web Reference# is by the barcode on the top left of the page. It starts with “USA” Make sure you enter this correctly or likely you’ll have disconnect between the form and application.
Select if you want Walk-in or Postal. If you do walk-in you’ll eventually get the chance to select an appointment time. Although I have also heard of people just…walking in.
For Postal. Make sure to put in the Airway Bill #s. This is the tracking# generally for the method. I would recommend using something that can be tracked.
Important Note: Make sure the air bills are printed. They won’t use handwritten air bills for return sending.
Second Note: If you go with Fedex, to get a printed air bill you must set up a fedex account online.
Enter in the payment options. Usually what type it is and the check #
Enter in all the other information and click save.
Print out the order form x2
Mailing in your Application
Before mailing in your information:
- Printed and Signed application: Do NOT staple photo to application. I recommend using a couple paper clips Make sure the barcode printed!
- Second Copy of the application for you. Better safe than sorry
- Two copies of your check or money order (one for you and one to include in the envelope)
- Passport Copy (in case they lose your passport)
- Two order form copies (I prefer to have a copy of everything for me too)
- Your printed air bills (and a return envelope to send back)
- Photo copy of your Identification / proof of address
After you check it in triplicate, I would then go ahead and send it off and pray.
Important Note: In my case the address on the BLS website did not match the one Fedex was expecting (New York Office). I chose the fedex address and it worked fine.
Here’s the fun part. Make sure to track your application. First verify the mailing method you used got to the destination with the tracking Number.
Checking out the BLS Tracking website, and see where in the process it is. Guess what, each of those options are NOT connected together. So I would check more than one. Check the Order Form Option in the beginning and then after it is received I would track by your passport #.
If all goes as advertised the application will snake its way through the process. It can take up to 24-48 hours for the status to update. If you are lucky you’ll get it back as expected.
So what if you Don’t? – Troubleshooting the System
Lets be honest, you are reading this because the system doesn’t always work. So here are some things to try.
Make sure you checked the different tracking options. As I said, not all track the same way. At the very least use the Passport Number and Order Form. The Passport Number tracking won’t start working until they’ve at least started the process in the office. So don’t panic if it doesn’t work right away.
Ok…calling BLS. There are two numbers to use, the number of the location you sent it in, and their helpline. Both are terrible. BUT there is some hope. I found luck calling first thing in the morning. If you wait until after say about 10am (EST in my instance) you basically have almost no luck the rest of the day. So call early!
If it hasn’t moved through the process in at least 48 hrs. Put in an escalation ticket. The link here is for NYC, there are ones for each office. This actually does work, or at least it did in my case. After I put in an escalation ticket it was when they actually moved it on to the next step.
And if this fails? Go to the office…if you can. If you are far like I was, hopefully you won’t need to. But you might have to call and put in tickets more often than you’d want. It also may take a month like it did for me too.
How did the Indian Visa process work for you? Any other advice or things I missed (I wrote this from memory of doing it over 2 months ago so I possibly missed something). Also check out my story of the visa process too if you are curious.
Indian Visa Online says
Tips for getting an Indian visa — I can’t get enough of them!!
Especially accurate and clearly defined ones, so thank you, my friend.
I especially like those last-minute, ‘Before mailing in your Application’ ones!
Aditi Giasotta says
Really wonderful and informative post! I am fortunate enough to apply for and easily get a 10 year visa since I have the majority of my family living in India still. This is an awesome step-by-step guide for people who don’t know where to start.
I went with the 10year visa too! It was worth getting it. Although now they are changing the process again at the end of the year to allow on-arrival visas. That should make life easier for everyone!
Wow Anwar! This is really informative. I wish India would let us buy the visa as we enter the country!
They will! It seems starting in October you can get visa on arrival. But until then if you need to go you still need to get a visa before hand.
Shikha (whywasteannualleave) says
I have a lot of family in India so have had to deal with getting a visa here in London on several occasions – used to be a nightmare with huge queues outside the embassy and so many steps but I’m glad to say it seems to have improved a lot in recent years!
Actually it hasn’t improved in recent years. Its a bit more of a mess than it was. It will soon though! I’m hopeful for that. And when visa on arrival comes, things will be really nice…we hope.