What visa should I get to India -- and how?
December 15, 2016 7:22 AM   Subscribe

I am not a journalist per se, but I am traveling to India for work on an article in a book I am writing. What kind of visa should I apply for? And is there any way to speed this up?

I am an idiot and am just now thinking of this. The trip is in February. I am a US citizen, but living in the UK. I was planning on just applying as a "tourist" but then saw that there are also visas for "journalists", and that anyone who "is directly or indirectly engaged in the process of creation, management or dissemination of contents for a media organization shall be treated as Journalists."

Is that me? I have a book contract, but I do not actually work for any media organization. The visa process seems to require a letter from my employer -- which for these purposes would be my publisher I guess? There's no way I could just go on a tourist visa right? (I'm not trying to go to jail.) This is not investigative journalism; I'm interviewing some people who work at a nonprofit for a chapter I am working on.

The thing is, the trip is in February, and so I wouldn't have enough time -- the 10 weeks the website seems to take to apply for a journalist visa. Googling this is a mess. Does anyone know is there is anyway to get the right visa faster?
posted by heavenknows to Travel & Transportation around India (10 answers total)
Contact a company like Travisa and they can tell you what you need based upon your specific circumstances. They charge a fee for processing your documents, obviously, but their expertise is worth it if you aren't sure what to do and want someone reliable to handle it for you start to finish.

I apply for all sorts of business visas for people of various nationalities and India is one of the worst, but even so it doesn't take more than a couple of weeks. I'd think you should have no trouble getting a visa for a trip that isn't for another two months.
posted by something something at 7:43 AM on December 15, 2016

Internet information about India in general is lacking/complicated. Your confusion/frustration is understandable.

India outsources all of its visa services. Travisa, mentioned by somethingsomethign was the contractor who handled it at the time I got my first one, but it now appears that Cox and King are the responsible vendor and the NY Consulate website tells you to approach them directly with applications and questions. It also appears that there is a "visa on arrival" type option requiring you to register and pay online before traveling.

Those above options assume you are going to get a tourist visa. I am not a lawyer or remotely qualified to give you advice on whether what your doing could be construed as journalism/work by Indian government officials. With that said collecting stories/talking to people/doing research and writing are not the most obvious or overt journalistic activities one could engage in. If you were filming a documentary, carrying other specialized image/video/sound recording devices I would think you chances of being stopped or asked about whether you were there in a journalistic capacity would be much higher.

I would be wary of applying for the journalism visa if you can avoid it - they may want to know a lot more about what youre writing about and I would not want an extended delay over a back-and-forth to jeopardize the timing of your trip.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:29 AM on December 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

i have used travisa before and they have been helpful. If you are us citizen, you should be able to apply for visa on arrival. The process is much simpler now than it was a year ago. Check out this wsj article for details


According to http://www.immihelp.com/nri/indiavisa/india-visa-processing-times.html , it should only take a couple days to process your visa.
posted by radsqd at 8:30 AM on December 15, 2016

This is the company my company has us use for our work visa applications: https://businessvisahq.com/ I'm not sure if they can/will work with individuals since they seem to be set up as a corporate portal. Part of the process involves shipping them your passport and photos (along with filling out forms online) and they then dealt with the Indian side of things, including taking my passport to get the approved visa inserted and then shipping it back to me. I think they charged about $600 for this service but that was for a 5 year multiple entry visa approved in about 2 weeks end to end without having to use the expedited service. Might be work contacting them; if they don't work with individuals they may have some recommendations for who does.
posted by DarthDuckie at 9:17 AM on December 15, 2016

Two months ago Cox and Kings handled my partner's complicated research visa. They were very helpful and communicative and got the visa processed in just under ten days. Call them.
posted by firstdrop at 9:43 AM on December 15, 2016

It's been a while since I dealt with this, but my understanding as of when I traveled to India in 2008 is that it is very, very difficult to get approved for a journalism or media related visa to India. (I was even encouraged to soft-pedal my TV production job on the tourist visa application.) The wisdom in 2008 from people who travel to India frequently was to get the regular tourist visa and don't mention journalism AT ALL in any supporting documentation. Apparently Indian enforcement of this sort of thing (doing book research on a tourist visa) is nonexistent, while India will reject virtually all journalism/media visas as a matter of course.

What kind of book are you writing, and what will the research entail? If you're going to have any kind of contact with the Indian government or local officials, significant people who will require red tape to get access to, or if you're there to dig up dirt on controversial topics which will probably put you on the radar of the government eventually, I would opt to try to get the journalism visa. If this is an Eat, Pray, Love kind of thing (the book talks about India in a general and non-investigative capacity), I would go on a tourist visa.

Also, yes, travisa handles all Indian visas now, so you will ultimately be going through them regardless.
posted by Sara C. at 9:54 AM on December 15, 2016

From the UK, the handling agent is VFS global, not Travisa. They'll deal with visas for all passports, not just UK ones.

VFS's Russian visa service in London is efficient & helpful.
posted by ambrosen at 12:29 PM on December 15, 2016

Unless your book is a government exposé, you're overthinking this. If you are doing a big news-media reporting thing you should get a journalism visa, but your employer would take care of that. You are not working for a major news outlet. Even full time professional travel bloggers just go with a tourist visa.

India is pretty relaxed about letting US/UK citizens into the country. Just tell them you are there on vacation.
posted by ananci at 1:12 PM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I hate CKGS- the visa guys for the Indian embassy in the US. So before you do anything with any visa middleman for Indian embassy, try calling their customer service. We had to wait for full 25 minutes and the call kept discouraging us, wanting us to hang up. Their call center was in India and once we got through, the guy could not pull up our records because of horrible internet connection.
So before you send your money in, make sure you have the patience to handle this. Also do a Walk-In rather than shipping if you can. People have lost their passports etc. and to try and get them to listen to you will be a nightmare, let alone getting your docs back.
posted by metajim at 3:52 PM on December 15, 2016

(I just saw the bit about you being in the UK. I'm sorry for the misinformation.)
posted by firstdrop at 6:17 PM on December 15, 2016

« Older help an aging third culture kid   |   Fixing large rough spot in cast iron skillet Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.