What can I say about Visas apart from that they are stressful?
It’s meticulous, and you can’t screw it up, or you’ll be out – that is, you won’t even be in. It’s also a question of timing, because you can’t do it too early, a 6 month Visa is only valid for six months and this has to cover the duration of your stay plus entry and exit. I was, of course, facing more logistical problems in trying to time sending my visa off, and getting it back, in my short stay in the UK – since I needed my passport to get back across on the ferry from Germany and 19 days later I’d need it again, plus visa, to get to India. I would start about 4 weeks before travel if you’re going for a month or less, that should be plenty, to get your passport to them and back.
The first port of call is the Indian Visa Application Centre, vfsglobal.co.uk, and the Indian High Commission, for all the information you need to start. All Visa applications go through the Indian Commission eventually, but there are several ways to get them there: one is to apply directly through them, which can be slow and tedious; they warn you to leave ‘at least’ two weeks in working days. The other way, if you’re pushed for time is to pay an agency; it’s painful but effective.
So the application is now online (but if you’re reading this you definitely have internet connection – well done! Half way there). You need your passport to complete and the details of the venue you are staying living in, in India. Apart from that you need any extra details – some you can’t even imagine why they need – I had to provide my father’s previous occupations and my parents’ birth places, you kind of think, why? But there must be several checks they have to run on you, or maybe they’re just trying to scare you. If you’re not a student I suspect all the information will be just about you though. Oh and then there’s photos, don’t make the mistake of sending them passport photos that would be far too simple. What you need is a 5cmx5cm photos (double check that!), I know that it’s definitely a square one, which meant I wasted my first €5 getting the wrong shots from a machine. You can get square photos from passport-style machines though, so just make sure you save your money and adjust the settings. If you’re sending to a Visa agency some will resize for you, but I didn’t risk it. Make sure you send two too.
You’re going to need a printer too, for the online forms once you’ve finished: the application, signed twice, the declaration, signed once and, if you’re sending with an agency, you’ll need a declaration to say you allow them to handle your visa for you. It’s a pretty nerve wracking thing to do, send your passport off in the post with a bunch of documents containing personal details and trust that they will get there. All I did was pay for first class special delivery (cost me about £14 for both ways but I’m pretty sure that will vary) and, I must say, everything came back just fine and very quickly. Check whether you live near an application centre, because that would be cheaper although more tedious and possibly still slow (if you’re in a city there’s a good chance, if you’re in a small town like me you will have no luck, use the post!).
As for my agency; as usual I don’t want to recommend especially because I haven’t exactly shopped around, I went with the first one I found . But I will say they were tres efficient. They call you prior to sending, and as many times as you need to answer all your questions. The guy dealing with me even scattered my emails with smiley faces to make me feel relaxed… it didn’t work when I was entrusting him with my passport. But he was very nice and patient and I’m sure he’s pleased to see the back of me. Then you send them your belongings, three forms, one passport and two photos (but no payment), and they will email you to let you know they have it. Then they will call you again when it’s done to discuss return. I had sent a pre-stamped pre-paid envelope with mine so they could wing it back asap, but at this point if you haven’t they will just add postage onto your bill. I paid for a super-quick 7 day turn around, which only took 3 days in the end, but it did cost me £146. Ouch. Yeah. That’s the catch and I would say if you have the option, avoid this and just let it take its sweet old time. However if you don’t have time to kill, you have to pay about £90 for your visa anyway, it’s only another £56 to get them to push it through quickly. You weigh it up, I didn’t really feel like I had a choice. Although, who knows? The Indian Commission may have just been covering their backs, they might have got it done much more quickly!