It’s a Little Easier to Live in India Legally Now

India travel

I wrote in A Better Life for Half the Price that the cost of living in most parts of India was one of the cheapest in the world, but that staying there long-term was really difficult because of their visa policy. That changed for the better last year and you can now turn around and come back after 180 days instead of having to stay away for several months.

The good thing about a blog like this being really popular is that someone usually chimes in to set the record straight if I’ve made a factual error. That’s apparently the case with what I’ve been saying about a long-term visa for India. In all fairness, nothing is ever simple or straightforward in India, especially if the legendary bureaucracy is involved, but here’s what reader Tenzin had to say.

“US residents get a 10 year tourist visa now. You still need to leave every 180 days but there is no longer a two month wait requirement to return. I live here on less than $400 USD a month which includes rent ($119 a month), food, medicines, and supporting a rescue pet.”

Always trust the people on the ground rather than what you read on the internet, but I poked around to verify this just in case and he’s right. There hasn’t been much written about it, but about a year ago the law changed so that you can basically do a visa run to Nepal or Sri Lanka if you’d like instead of having to disappear for a few months.

Indian Visas for U.S. Citizens

This is for Americans, so read on for other nationalities. But if you’re from the USA, you can get a multi-entry visa for India and keep going in and out for 10 years. Yes, it’s a hassle up front and you’d better have both patience and a clean police record. But after you get it, you’ve got 180 days from the date of issue on your first stay. After that you can go somewhere else, come back immediately, then you’ve got 180 consecutive days again. Keep doing this for as long as you like as long as you don’t get into any trouble. Compare that to the situation in a place like Thailand or Indonesia and it’s a dream.

Keep in mind though this is a tourist visa. You need a different one if you’re coming to work for an NGO, getting a liver transplant, or do investigative reporting on lead poisoning due to Delhi smog so thick you can bag it and sell the mineral rights. If you’re going to launch a business selling organic magic cookies to bearded hipsters from abroad, assume you’ll have to fess up to that sooner or later and get a different visa.

Indian visa

If you put anything related to applying for an Indian visa into Google you’re going to get a flood of agencies ready to help you out for a fee. While this will get you used to what every day will be like in India when you need to get something done, in this case you can ignore the touts. You won’t feel very secure when visiting the Indian Embassy site, but you might when you find out who is processing U.S. visas for them now.

Ready for this? It’s the tour company Cox & Kings! No, I’m not making this up. If you want to apply for an Indian tourist visa, you don’t travel somewhere and visit a consulate. You apply online here.

Indian Visas for Other Nationalities

Don’t send me hate e-mail if this changes tomorrow, but for now tourist visas can also be issued for a period of five years to the nationals of France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico.

Whew! That’s a pretty long list. You’re out of luck if you’re Israeli or Filipino, but as you’ll see if you spend any time in India, that doesn’t mean they can’t travel in India for quite a while. Israelis can stay for six months, no problem.

And hey kids, look respectable, okay? Just because you’re visiting a country you feel you can look down your nose at doesn’t mean you can be a bum. Indians dress well, even if they’re broke, and they don’t appreciate you being a bum. So if you’re applying in person, respect this advice I found on the website of a company trying to obtain Indian visas for people in the Philippines:

“It is mandatory to all applicants to please wear DECENT CLOTHES and LOOK RESPECTABLE. WEAR SHOES and NOT SLIPPERS. Otherwise you’ll be sent back to reschedule.
No sleeveless
No hanging blouses
No sandals
No shorts
No mini-skirt
No T-shirt, it should be with collar”

And you might want to remove all those piercings. I’m just sayin’…

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  1. Aditya

    Depending on which part of India u reside, tickets to dubai/ Thailand /Malaysia are usually cheaper than Nepal / srilanka

    • Tim Leffel

      True, but you can travel overland to the neighbors.

  2. Ken

    Based on the rest, I would say there is something wrong with this second sentence of the article:
    “That changed for the better last year and you can now turn around and come back after 180 days instead of having to stay away for several months.”
    Feel free to delete my comment if you fix it.

    • Tim Leffel

      Not sure why that’s not clicking Ken. You used to have to be away for two months before you could return. Now you can just do a border run and come back—for another 180 days.

      • jb

        This sentence threw me for a loop too, as it can be parsed as saying that you have to stay away for 180 days before coming back. What it really means, of course, is “ after 180 days you can turn around and come back [immediately] , instead of…”

  3. Hermes

    For Canadians it is even better (or did you get your facts a little wrong?) Same duration of ten years and one is required to leave the country for only one day (one hour?), and the brief exit can even be neighbouring Nepal or Sri Lanka, unlike before. This can be done perpetually apparently.

    In Vancouver it is CAD$230, takes less than a week for the security check and all you need is supplementary ID, a 51 X 51 cm photo and I forget if anything else (proof of address perhaps). I did this once before at the licensed corporation (BLS) that processes visas for the Gov’t of India. BLS is efficient and staff are friendly. No $50 faxes to New Delhi such as the greedy Ambassador of India charges in Phnom Penh. A US citizen friend applied for a ten (or was it five) year visa in Cambodia and paid $500 USD many years ago. So, the price is coming down.

    NO flat ‘go away’ refusals like in Singapore and lineups like in KL and Bangkok. Several years ago I did this in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, at the BLS office, and it was relatively straightforward. In fact, you *have* to apply in you home country now. You cannot apply as a traveller overseas, for better or worse.

    However, the website of India is NOT easy (I consistently have delays and technical problems), and you must first fill out an online form, then present that in person or by mail to the BLS office. I would prefer either that corporation take over every step or all was done the traditional paper way in person at an Embassy or Consulate, but we have to deal with a combination – IMHO, a typical example of monopoly capitalism at work – neither a gov’t department nor a free market company competing for your business – so it in one sense s the worst of both worlds. However, at least now it is good value.

    Do not expect as quick process if you are military, a parent was born in Pakistan and perhaps even if you are Muslim. And I say thank the Gods the very real risk of Islamic terrorism is taken seriously by the Government of India. India takes your religion seriously as indeed they should. They don’t care about political correctness. Much.


    • Tim Leffel

      Getting the facts on anything bureaucracy related on India is tough, but everything I read said 5 years. Maybe it’s changed and the sites are out of date. I’ll defer to your experience.

    • Chris

      A 51 x 51cm photo would be rather unwieldy… ;-)

  4. Sara

    Im Australian.
    We get 6 months, then have to leave, but then can reapply. CAN TAKE 2-3 WEEKS DEPENDING ON WHERE YOU ARE. Sri Lanka is usually a good *go to* point for that.

    Not sure about the previous posting by Hermes. Used to be that you couldnt apply for an Indian Visa inside Malaysia at Kuala Lumper at all if you wernt here on a Residence Visa or Work Visa. Now you can just apply like everyone else, all you need is one extra accompanying form saying why we arent in our own country at time of application. We got ours in Penang.

    Either way, get bagging the air in Delhi… those minerals have gotta be worth something right?

    • Emma

      Hey Sara

      I’m Australian too, and am trying to work out how to organise my India visa…can you get a 6 month visa for India anywhere outside Australia (eg Sri Lanka or Penang) or are they all 3 month visas?


  5. Michael

    Having prematurely received an evisa for 60 days, but with the intention of staying long term in India, is it possible to apply for the 5 year visa while in India or must one exit an apply from a neighboring country?


  6. Tom

    Hello Tim,
    I am currently in Pondicherry on a 10 year toursit visa which expires in February 2026. I am enjoying it very much. My six months will be up on July 20th 2019. Can I simply go to
    Sri Lanka a couple of days before July 20th and return after 1 or 2 weeks for another 6 months. I do not currently have a return ticket to the US. Let me know if you will or direct me to the appropriate place to find out.
    Thank you

    • Tim Leffel

      As I understand it from the Embassy site of my country, yes. Not sure where you are from.

  7. John

    It’s nice that your first picture is of the Mysore Palace, located in Mysore, India, a destination that’s not at the top of most tourists’ lists of places to see. I’ve spent 12 of the last 24 months, practicing yoga at the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institure, and I have an affinity for the aforementioned city. By the way, your post is most helpful. Thank you.

  8. Bart

    I am from Poland and I also got a 5-year tourist Visa. But I must leave India every 90 days. For at least one day.
    My problem is that I plan to do a daily vlog about doing business in India. A kind of mix between tourism and business.
    I am afraid that once go online I will get in trouble- it may be seen as journalism so different visa required.
    My company s registered in Europe and I just live here for now ( in India) and manage it from here.
    This vlogging thing concerns me.
    PLus I am about to go to one Indian lawyer to check how can I become this resident of India- the law keeps changing literally every 6 months. Now I read that I just have to be in India for more than 180 days a year. I am totally confused :)

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