Indian Visa Processing in New York

the cutest girl in the whole worldFor any of you looking into going to India, be forewarned about the visa process.  Here is my experience applying for an Indian visa as an American citizen.

Recently, due to many complaints and lack of proper service from BLS, Indian visas are now being processed by Cox and Kings as of May 2014. The intense reviews online look like a nightmare.  If you read through all the reviews, you will see that some people have gone to pick-up their passport at the office every day for the last 2 weeks with no success.  Others have stayed until 11:45pm, hoping to get their passport.  Passports have been lost, sent to the wrong addresses, and when people DID receive their passports, they were handed out on the street without needing to show proof of ID.  Their website has various issues or doesn’t work altogether.  Needless to say, I am extremely nervous about getting my Indian visa in time.

Since we don’t intend to be in India until November 2014 until the end of January 2015, we thought about getting our visa on the road.  After reading nightmares online, we decided it would probably be best to get a visa while in New York.  As an American, as of May 2014, you can get a 6 month, 5 year, or 10 year visa.  Your visa is valid from the time it is issued, not the date that you enter India.  We thought it would be safer to just get the 5 year of 10 year visa, to leave a bit of flexibility.  Since the 5 year visa and the 10 year visa is the same price, we opted for applying for the 10 year visa since many said you may get a visa with a shorter time period, and would not be able to get a refund.The 6 month visa is about $60 USD, and the 5/10 year visa is about $170 with all fees.  Please note that while your visa starts from the date it is issued, for the 5/10 year visa, you are only permitted to stay 180 days at a time, with a couple months in between each visit if you leave India.

We also decided to apply in person.  To apply by walk-in for the New York office (and other locations in the US), first fill out the Online application form.  Make sure you make a note of your unique reference code at the top of your application before you start the application.  I would also try avoiding pressing backspace more than once.  It would restart my application several times!  There are a lot of strange questions for a visa (your father’s birthplace, your religion, any visible identification marks, countries you have been in the last ten years, the list goes on!)  Regardless, I had to look up what a lot of the questions meant here.  The entire process of applying for an Indian Tourist visa can be found at the Cox and Kings site.
Regarding photographs, I have read that if you will be needing more visas down the line, it is a good idea to keep passport photos with you.  If you don’t want to shell out $12 for two photos, you can get them super cheap with epassportphoto.
For the fee, I have read some people had issues with credit cards, so it may be a good idea to have cash or a money order. When you are ready with all your documents, you will need to make an online appointment, or can do a walk-in.  Refer to your location’s walk-in times. Some people had troubles getting into the NY office without an appointment, even though they have walk-in application hours from 3-4pm, so you can try to make an appointment online.  Their spots are limited, so please be sure to try to book an appointment online as soon as possible. I actually just decided to do a walk-in, so I actually didn’t need to make an appointment.
When you are ready to go in, I found this checklist rather useful.
Here is my timeline:
7/15/2014 – tried to scope out the NY office.  They wouldn’t let me into the office without an appointment letter. I prepared all the docs needed at home.
7/16/2014 – tried to go in again to apply for my visa. I arrived at 3:35pm and went in the first queue to have my docs checked.  Before getting into the line, I grabbed a number from the machine.  After 30 minutes, I took a seat and waited for my number to be called.  I waited for another 45 minutes, was called, paid $175.10 for each visa (10 year requested but the lady said they may even only give 6 months!) and then left.  I was in and out in about 2 hours which sounds amazing.  I will say though, that when I started waiting, a guy who looked frazzled ran in and said that supposedly his passport was sitting for days in the office and that perhaps the tracking system didn’t work.
7/18/201: Update of visa status below:

Application Status Date of Status Remarks
Your application has been submitted at The Indian Embassy for further processing. 07/17/2014
Your application is in process. Your tracking id is USAN11354514 07/16/2014
7/22/2012 – Husband received an email stating it was processing at the embassy.  When I logged in using his reference number, it said that the passport was being sent back to Cox and Kings, since missing documents were needed.  The documents were not listed.  I went again to the office from 3:30-6pm to be told that no documents are needed, and that one of the passports came back to Cox and Kings, but that it was being sent out today to be processed.  They told me to come back on Friday, 7/25/2014. In the evening, I received an email that my passport should be ready for pick-up.
7/25/2014 – Went in with a print-out that my passport was ready.  Received both my husband’s passport and my own passport without having to show any type of identification.  My husband’s passport had a 10 year visa, and I only had a 2 year visa.  Good enough.  While I did see some hiccups, I would say that they have improved their services since they started earlier this year.
Good luck, everyone!  Think of this as training when you go to India!