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India

Visas

Visas Citizens of Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Laos, Myanmar (Burma) and Indonesia are currently granted a 30-day single-entry visa on arrival at Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi airports. All other nationals – except Nepali and Bhutanese – must get a visa before arriving in India. These are available at Indian missions worldwide. Note that your passport needs to be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in India, with at least two blank pages. Entry Requirements
In 2009 a large number of foreigners were found to be working in India on tourist visas, so regulations surrounding who can get a visa and for how long have been tightened. Most people travel on the standard six-month tourist visa. Student and business visas have strict conditions (consult the Indian embassy for details). Tourist visas are valid from the date of issue, not the date you arrive in India. You can spend a total of 180 days in the country. Five- and 10-year tourist visas are available to US citizens only under a bilateral arrangement; however, you can still only stay in the country for up to 180 days continuously. Currently you are required to submit two passport photographs with your visa application; these must be in colour and must be 5.08cm by 5.08 cm (2in by 2in). An onward travel ticket is a requirement for most visas, but this isn’t always enforced (check in advance). Additional restrictions apply to travellers from Bangladesh and Pakistan, as well as certain eastern European, African and central Asian countries. Check any special conditions for your nationality with the Indian embassy in your country. Visas are priced in the local currency and may have an added service fee (contact your country’s Indian embassy for current prices). Extended visas are possible for people of Indian origin (excluding those in Pakistan and Bangladesh) who hold a non-Indian passport and live abroad. For visas lasting more than six months, you’re supposed to register at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO; 011-26711443; frrodil@nic.in; Level 2, East Block 8, Sector 1, Rama Krishna (RK) Puram, Delhi; 9.30am-3pm Mon-Fri) in Delhi within 14 days of arriving in India; enquire about these special conditions when you apply for your visa. Re-Entry Requirements
A law barring re-entry of foreigners into India within two months of the date of their previous exit was scrapped in late 2012, allowing tourists on subcontinental or South Asian itineraries to transit freely between India and its neighbouring countries. However, the 60-day-gap law still applies to citizens of China, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sudan. Visa Extensions
India has traditionally been very stringent with visa extensions. At the time of writing, the government was granting extensions only in circumstances such as medical emergencies or theft of passport just before the applicant planned to leave the country (at the end of their visa). If you do need to extend your visa due to any such exigency, you should contact the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office in Delhi. This is also the place to come for a replacement visa, and if you need your lost/stolen passport replaced (required before you can leave the country). Regional FRROs are even less likely to grant an extension. Assuming you meet the stringent criteria, the FRRO is permitted to issue an extension of 14 days (free for nationals of most countries; enquire on application). You must bring your confirmed air ticket, one passport photo (take two, just in case) and a photocopy of your passport identity and visa pages. Note that this system is designed to get you out of the country promptly with the correct official stamps, not to give you two extra weeks of travel and leisure.

Travel permits

Access to certain parts of India – particularly disputed border areas – is controlled by a complicated permit system. A permit known as an Inner-Line Permit (ILP) is required to visit northern parts of Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim that lie close to the disputed border with China/Tibet. Obtaining the ILP is basically a formality, but travel agents must apply on your behalf for certain areas, including many trekking routes passing close to the border. ILPs are issued by regional magistrates and district commissioners, either directly to travellers (for free) or through travel agents (for a fee).

Entering the northeast states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram is much harder – tourists require a Restricted Area Permit (RAP), which must be arranged through Foreigners’ Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) offices. Ultimate permission comes from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi, which is reluctant to issue permits to foreigners – without exception, your best chance of gaining a permit is to join an organised tour and let the travel agent make all the arrangements.

Most permits officially require you to travel in a group of four (married couples are also permitted in certain areas). This is enforced in some places, not in others – travel agents may have suggestions to help solo travellers get around these restrictions. Note that you can only travel to the places listed on the permit, often by set routes, and this is hard to change after the permit is issued.

It’s not a bad idea to double-check with tourism officials to see if permit requirements have undergone any recent changes before you head out to these areas.