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.
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 hanging blouses
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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