The rules and validity of the visa vary according to nationality. Check the website of the Indian embassy, consulate or high commission in your country, which you can find on this list.
Nationals of Nepal and Bhutan may enter India without a visa and live there indefinitely.
Depending on the purpose of the visit, most passports allow you to obtain a tourist visa (six months), a business visa (6 months, one year or more, multiple entries) or a student visa (up to 5 years). A special 10-year visa is available for nationals of certain countries, including US citizens (US$100). An Indian visa is valid from the date of issue, not the date of entry. For example, a 6-month visa issued on 1 January expires on 30 June, regardless of your date of entry.
|Do you need a visa?|
Since the end of 2014 there are new rules for the tourist visa on arrival and now more countries are covered. See this website for more details.
Maldives (max. stay of 90 days; tourism only)
e-Tourist Visa (eTV)
0 USD handling fee: Argentina, Cook Islands, Fiji, Jamaica, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Uruguay, Vanuatu
Handling fee of USD 25 (+2.5% bank fee): Japan, Singapore, Sri Lanka
Handling fee of USD48 (+2.5% bank fee): Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, China (PRC), China (Hong Kong SAR), China (Macau SAR), Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Laos, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Macedonia, Russia, St. Christopher and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Petersburg. Saint Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turks and Caicos Islands, United Arab Emirates, Vatican City (Holy See), Venezuela, Vietnam.
Handling fee of USD60 (+2.5% bank fee): Mozambique, Russia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America
Advance visa required
All other nationalities except those mentioned above
Visa requirement with a waiting period of at least 4 weeks
Nationals (or former nationals) of Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran
Visa requirement with a minimum waiting period of 45 days
Nationals (or former nationals) of Pakistan
Since 2012, a minimum waiting period of sixty days between consecutive tourist visas or visits on tourist or visitor visas has applied to nationals of Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and Bangladesh, to foreigners of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin and to stateless persons; this rule was abolished in 2012 for all other nationalities[www]. Tourist visas valid for 6 months can have a maximum stay of 90 days per visit, depending on nationality. Check with your local embassy for the maximum length of stay per visit.
India has established an e-Tourist Visa (eTV). Electronic visas can be applied for between 4 and 34 days prior to arrival and are valid for a single entry and stay of up to 30 days. Travellers cannot obtain more than two eTVs in a calendar year. Entry with an eTV must be made at one of the sixteen designated airports (Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bengaluru, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Gaya, Goa, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Tiruchirapalli, Trivandrum, Varanasi – see web link for an up-to-date list). The eTV is currently available to citizens from over 100 countries (again, see the weblink for the current list; some EU countries and most African and Middle Eastern countries are excluded). People of Pakistani origin, regardless of nationality, are not eligible. The fee for eTV depends on nationality.
The eTV facility replaced the limited visa-on-arrival scheme in January 2015; there are no longer any visa-on-arrival facilities in India.
Regular visa applications (for travellers who are not eligible for eTV) are also completed at Indian Visa Online before being submitted to a Visa Application Centre.
Nationals or former nationals of Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran must apply for a visa well in advance (at least 45 days for Pakistanis and at least four weeks for the others). Contact your local Indian diplomatic mission well before you plan to travel.
Many Indian embassies have outsourced some or all of their visa processing to third-party companies, so check before you go to the embassy. In the USA, for example, since 21 May 2014, your visa application must be submitted to Cox & Kings Global Services and no longer to the embassy. Applying through these agencies also incurs an application fee (in the US with CKGS, this fee is USD 20), which is higher than the fee listed on most embassy websites and you should check before submitting your documents. In addition, many Indian embassies only offer visas to residents of the country: This means that you should apply for your visa before you leave, rather than trying to get it in a neighbouring country (although since August 2009, non-residents can apply for a visa at the embassy in Bangkok for an additional “transfer fee” of 400 THB).
It is advisable to ask for a multiple entry visa even if you do not plan to use it – they cost the same, are distributed quite generously and are handy if you decide to enter one of the neighbouring countries at the last minute.
A business visa may be required if you intend to pursue work in India. Note that the eTV allows “occasional business visits” and is easier to obtain. If you need a business visa, be prepared to provide a variety of documents about your business in your home country as well as the business you are visiting in India. This may include a letter of invitation from the company you are visiting, business registration documents and possibly tax returns and other sensitive documents. It may be worthwhile to apply for a short-term visa (e.g. for 6 months) as the criteria may be lower in your case.
There are other categories for specialised purposes. The missionary visa is compulsory for anyone visiting India to “participate primarily in religious activities”. This rule is meant to combat religious conversion, especially of Hindus to Christianity. There have already been cases of preachers being deported for addressing religious gatherings on a tourist visa. You need not worry if you are only on a religious tour to churches in India.
If you have a student, work, research or mission visa, you must register with the regional immigration office where you will be staying within 14 days of your arrival. If the place where you are staying does not have such an office, you must register at the local police station. All visitors who intend to stay longer than 180 days must also register.
Overstaying a visa is to be avoided at all costs as you will be prevented from leaving the country until you have paid some pretty hefty fines and submitted a large amount of paperwork to either the local immigration office or police station. This whole process is unlikely to take less than 3 days and can take much longer when you factor in weekends, numerous government holidays and the inevitable bizarre bureaucratic requirements.
Customs and Immigration
Customs clearance can be a bit of a hassle, although it has improved a lot over the last decade. In general, you should avoid the touts who offer to take your luggage through customs. There are different rules regarding duty-free – there are different rules for Indian citizens, foreign ‘tourists’, citizens of Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan, non-citizens of Indian origin and people moving to India. Take a quick look at the Central Board of Excise and Customs website to find out what you are allowed to bring in. Foreign tourists who are not Nepalis, Bhutanese and Pakistanis and who enter via Nepal, Bhutan or Pakistan are allowed to bring in their “used personal effects and travel souvenirs” and “gifts” worth ₹4,000. If you are an Indian citizen or of Indian origin, you are allowed to bring in items worth ₹25,000. If you are bringing new packaged items, it is a good idea to bring the bills for them to show the value. You are also allowed to bring in 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco and 1 litre (2 litres for Indians) of alcohol duty free. If you have nothing to declare, you can go through the green channel that is clearly marked at various airports and usually you will not be harassed.
The import and export of Indian rupees by foreign nationals is theoretically prohibited, although in practice there are no controls. Indian nationals can import or export a maximum of ₹7500, but not ₹500 and ₹1000 notes when travelling to Nepal.