Indian visa applications to become more tedious

Indian visa applications to become more tedious

Australian business and leisure travellers heading to India will face more red tape come December, with the country’s visa acquisition process soon to prohibit both walk-in and Registered Post applications.

Instead, jetsetters will need to make an appointment before attending one of just six India Passport & Visa Service Centres (IPVSCs) in person to have a digital photograph taken and to provide fingerprints when submitting their visa paperwork.

The centres are located in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth, welcoming applications from 8:30am until 3pm Monday to Friday (local time), but allowing visa collections only between noon and 3pm.

That’s a particular blow to residents of Darwin, Hobart and other regional Australian cities with one-stop international flights to India such as Cairns and the Gold Coast, who must now drive or fly to an application centre at their own expense.

An IPVSC representative confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that the same application rules would apply to all applicants – regardless of home address, distance from a visa centre or the type of visa being applied for – and that from December 1, applications from these residents would not be permitted via Registered Post or courier.

For many travellers, that’s potentially hundreds of dollars spent merely reaching a service centre before even lodging a visa application or leaving Australian soil.

Visa application fees for India

India already requires applicants to pay a compulsory Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) fee, a service centre fee and a 1.95% credit card surcharge (if paying with plastic) in addition to the normal asking price for a visa.

All up, business travellers chasing a one-year multiple entry visa for India already pay $413.50 in the process, broken down as follows:

  • Visa fee: $399
  • ICWF fee: $2
  • Service fee: $4.60
  • Credit card surcharge: $7.90

Add to that air travel costs such as from Cairns to the Brisbane service centre or from Darwin to the Perth facility, round-trip taxi fares between the destination airport and the visa centre, airport parking or additional taxis to and from the origin airport and courier costs for returning the passport.

And, don’t forget your visa application photographs. As the Indian Government requires visa photos that are 5.08cm x 5.08cm rather than the typical 4.5cm x 3.5cm size employed on Australian passports and by a number of other countries, you won’t be able to use your spares on the application.

All things considered, travellers in remote areas could easily fork out close a thousand dollars just to attain a visa – and that’s before getting their passport stamped.

Visa Waiver Program

While India’s visa application process will no doubt become rather tedious, a number of other countries welcome Australian business and leisure travellers through the Visa Waiver Program, including New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Also, a number of European countries such as Italy, France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland form the ‘Schengen Area’ – allowing Aussies to visit for up to 90 days in any 180-day period for business or tourism purposes, visa-free.

Others, such as Brunei, allow Aussie flyers to easily obtain a cheap visa stamp on arrival, while the United States opens its doors to Australian passport holders who have cleared its quick, easy and online ESTA application process.

But, if your travels are taking you to India, save yourself a little hassle and lodge your application for the year ahead before the December change-over.

When you have a choice of destination, do high visa fees, extensive visa-related expenses or difficult application processes make you look elsewhere for your next trip abroad?

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT



  • fxdxdy


    2 Oct, 2014 08:16 am

    I contrast that to Singapore.
    I had to lodge a visa application for my inlaws who are from Saudi.
    To save $180, I drove them from Sydney to Canberra to apply at the Singapore embassy.
    It cost only $50 to lodge the application and I was told it would take 10 working days.
    The passports arrived back home 2 days later.
    I like the Singapore way - cheap an effecient whic is everything India isn't and which is why that country now moves even further down my 'to visit' list.

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  • Hugo


    2 Oct, 2014 08:40 am

    I really can't see how making it difficult and painful for rich foreigners to visit India is in India's interest, but hey, I'm not the place with the $1500 per capita GDP and the open sewers in the street, so maybe I'm missing something. 

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  • TheRealBabushka


    2 Oct, 2014 09:26 am

    Did Australia ramp up its visa process for Indian nationals visiting Australia or is this a unilateral move by the new BJP government to flex its muscle?

    By the way, this is the country that Australia wants to sell uranium to ;)

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  • rtyuiop


    2 Oct, 2014 09:38 am

    I have I think something like 5 previous business visas in my last couple of passports, I can say the right headline here should have been "...become *even* more tedious".

    My theory is the Indians learnt the art of pointless bureaucracy from the British, and then applied their near-limitless number of available staff to make it a painful, time-consuming art form.

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  • TheRealBabushka


    2 Oct, 2014 10:00 am

    I don't think the term "pointless bureaucracy" can be applied to the workings of the civil service that has administered an Empire where the sun never sets.

    I believe it would be more apt to suggest that some of the inheritors of the administration have grown complacent and have not rejuvenated their civil service to come up to par with the likes of Singapore and Hong Kong, two post-colonial success stories.

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  • watson374


    2 Oct, 2014 10:43 am

    I believe there was a time when the British administered India with little more than a few battalions and some two thousand clerks. Dare I suggest their bureaucracy hellhole is a doing entirely of their own.

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  • anonymous


    2 Oct, 2014 01:21 pm

    News from other online sources are saying that visa on arrival for tourists is being rolled out by year end. If it goes ahead then I guess there is no need to do all the things in this article.

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    Chris Chamberlin

    2 Oct, 2014 02:20 pm

    Hi anonymous,

    We checked the entry requirements for Australian travellers with the IPVSC, and were told the following:

    "We wish to inform you that; as per the recent update you need to visit our VFS center In-person with an appointment to obtain Indian Tourist Visa from 1st december onwards in order to provide Biometrics" (sic).

    However, we have now sent a follow-up enquiry to ensure that we've been provided with the correct information, and will reply again when we've received a response.

    That said, with the mooted 'visa on arrival' system reportedly only for tourists, business travellers would indeed still have to present themselves at a service centre after the introduction of any such scheme.



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  • Chris Chamberlin

    Chris Chamberlin

    2 Oct, 2014 06:25 pm

    Hi again anonymous,

    We've received an update from the IPVSC, as follows:

    "A Tourist Visa on arrival will only be issued to Nationals of Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Singapore. This will be a single entry visa valid for 30 days and available only at Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai Airport for a fee of USD 60.00 per passenger. This option is only in case of emergencies and when the person was unable to obtain a visa in the home country/country of Residence.

    "All other Nationals, except those specified, would need to obtain their Indian Visa prior to taking a flight to India. Please view the latest updates in Tourist Visa regulations on our website.

    "However, Visa on arrivals for Australian Nationals is not confirmed yet."

    If and when that changes, we'll certainly look to cover it.


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  • johninoz


    4 Oct, 2014 03:34 pm

    That is surprising.  I am sure I read quite some time ago that Visa on Arrival would become available to Australians, and I don't recall reading that the price of such a visa was going to be so high!  

    I also recall reading not that long ago that the Indian Government was pressing ahead with the VOA, and were looking at implementing from towards the end of this year!  Maybe that has gone out the window!

    Seems to me the whole process went to the dogs when they outsourced it to VFS who charge like wounded bulls.

    Having said that, I can say that I experienced - and lived to tell the tale - of applying for a visa at the Indian High Commission in London back in 2008.  One could write a book about that absolute chaotic madness.  A travel highlight of my life I will never forget!

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  • kniyer


    4 Oct, 2014 03:53 pm


    Out of curiosity, does Australia allow visa on arrival for Indian nationals?

    I just did a quick search and it would seem that India is excluded from both ETA and from the Online Visitor visa.

    In any event, I am an American, so I do not have a dog in this fight, but usually, visa systems are built on reciprocity.

    Yes, India could perhaps use your forex, but at the end of the day, that is not enough. With the Indian economy growing, institutional investors (especially from the US) bring in far more than what tourists would. And in response, India has announced visa on arrival for American nationals.

    Quid pro quo, yes?



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  • Chris_PER


    2 Oct, 2014 01:53 pm

    Finger prints? No thanks.

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    Chris Chamberlin

    2 Oct, 2014 02:21 pm

    Out of curiosity, have you travelled to Japan and the United States in recent years, where fingerprints are also required for entry?

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  • Azizi Khan

    Azizi Khan

    2 Oct, 2014 06:10 pm

    Under Commonwealth arrangement, all Commonwealth member countries can travel visa free quite easily - with exception of Australia and New Zealand where stringent border protection is enforced (red tape etc, call it whatever you want ). With terrorists coming out of the woodwork almost all countries in the Asia and beyond are implementing some sort of a biometric methods and increased scrutiny. Australia alone does not have the monopoly in this. 

    As I see it, these red tape only makes travel to these countries much safer because they know who are crossing their border. There were even talks of implementing some sort of surveilance coorperation like AU, NZ, CAN and USA to ensure better border and security. 

    Fingerprints ? Well Malaysia and Singapore already scan imprints of all incoming tourists. This is not something new what India is doing.

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  • Roger463


    26 Nov, 2014 12:59 pm

    Perhaps BT got the story wrong to begin with

    Here's a more trusted source on India... 


    Visa on arrival for 43 nationalities from Nov 27

    HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times New Delhi, November 26, 2014

    Visa-on-Arrival and Electronic Travel Authorisation for 43 countries, including United States, Australia, Fiji and Pacific Island countries is expected to be in place on November 27.

    Following Prime Minister Narendra’s Modi’s announcement in this regard, a draft Bill for amending the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which will enable merger of the PIO (Person of Indian Origin) and OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) schemes, is expected to be brought to the Cabinet for approval shortly, according to a release from the Prime Minister’s Office.

    The government has already announced fulfilment of the announcements made by the prime minister — such as granting visa for life to PIO card holders, exemption from police reporting for PIOs staying in India for long term and issuance of long term (10 year) visas to US nationals on a reciprocal basis.

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  • fxdxdy


    26 Nov, 2014 01:48 pm

    Aus BT had it right at the time when article was written.
    The Hindustan story was only published 8 hours ago:

    I wouldn't deem it reliable - India is a country when the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing so until the consulate sites here in Australia update their content I'd rely on the old fashioned visa-in-passport process. 

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  • fxdxdy


    28 Nov, 2014 09:25 am

    Finally, the official announcement on the consulate site, which is what matters:

    Even the website you have to use is working! 

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  • mickjoebill


    13 Dec, 2014 09:50 am

    Tourist Visa on arrival is said to have started. You apply online at least 4 days before travel. Fee is $60.

    Biometrics are captured on arrival at selected airports (plenty of potential for delays on arrival!) Duration of visa is 30 days.

    But Business visas require a visit to indian consulate prior to travel for biometrics.

    Decent info here


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  • human_agent


    6 Jan, 2015 11:02 am

    Does anyone know what they mean by "Casual Business Vist"?:

    • International Travellers whose sole objective of visiting India is recreation , sight seeing , casual visit to meet friends or relatives, short duration medical treatment or casual business visit.
    I have to go at the end of the month to just visit existing clients.  I'm not sure what would qualify as 'casual'.

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25 Oct, 2016 10:34 am


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