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?
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About Chris Chamberlin
Chris lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, an opera ticket and a glass of wine!