Passports and Visas
Unless you hold an Indian passport or are a citizen of Nepal or Bhutan, you need a visa to enter India. This applies to children and infants as well.
Cox & Kings Global Services. www.in.ckgs.us.
U.S. passports are valid for 10 years. You must apply in person if you're getting a passport for the first time; if your previous passport was lost, stolen, or damaged; or if your previous passport has expired and was issued more than 15 years ago or when you were under 16. All children under 18 must appear in person to apply for or renew a passport. Both parents must accompany any child under 14 (or send a notarized statement with their permission) and provide proof of their relationship to the child.
Before your trip, make two copies of your passport's data page (one for someone at home and another for you to carry separately). You can also scan the page and email it to someone at home and/or yourself.
There are 26 regional passport offices and thousands of passport acceptance facilities in post offices, public libraries, and other governmental offices. If you're renewing a passport, you can do so by mail. Forms are available at passport acceptance facilities and online.
The cost to apply for a new passport is $135 for adults, $105 for children under 16; adult renewals are $110. Allow up to six weeks for processing, both for first-time passports and renewals. For an expediting fee of $60 you can reduce this time to about three weeks. If your trip is less than two weeks away, you can get a passport even more rapidly by going to a passport office with the necessary documentation. Private expediters can get things done in as little as 48 hours, but charge hefty fees for their services.
A visa is essentially formal permission to enter a country. India no longer handles visa applications directly, except on an emergency basis. Instead, you must go to the website of Cox & Kings Global Services to submit an application and pay electronically. A standard, multiple-entry six-month tourist visa costs US$80 for American citizens. Non-U.S. citizens pay different fees. If you're traveling on business or as a student or journalist, you require a different (and more expensive) visa.
Cox & Kings has offices in Washington, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Houston, and you can submit your passport in person at those locations. Refer to the Cox & Kings website for detailed instructions. Your Indian visa should be processed within five days from the time Cox & Kings receives your passport, but start the process at least two weeks before your departure to allow for glitches. Your visa is valid from the date of issue, not the day you arrive in India. You must enter and leave during the specified time period, and your passport must have a remaining validity of at least six months.
As of July 2014, plans to unveil an electronic visa-on-arrival system for nationals of most developed countries were underway. Under the new system, applicants would be able to apply for permission to visit India online and receive approval within a few days, without having to submit their passports for processing. Once approved, applicants would be eligible for a visa on arrival at any of India’s major ports, valid for one month from the date of entry.
If you need to extend your visa, go to the Foreigners' Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in one of the major cities. But beware—the Indian government makes it extremely difficult to extend a visa for any reason, and if you overstay your visa, you may be required to get clearance from India's Ministry of Home Affairs to leave the country. Punishment can range from heavy fines to actually being jailed. Bottom line: Follow the visa rules and don't expect exceptions to be made, even if you think you have a good excuse.
U.S. Passport Information
U.S. Department of State. 877/487–2778; travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html.
U.S. Passport and Visa Expediters
A. Briggs Passport & Visa Expeditors. 800/806–0581; 202/338–0111; www.abriggs.com.
American Passport Express. 800/455–5166; www.americanpassport.com.
Passport Express. 800/362–8196; www.passportexpress.com.
Travel Document Systems. 800/874–5100; 877/874–5104; 888/874–5100; 866/797–2600; 888/424-8472; www.traveldocs.com.
Travel the World Visas. 202/223–8822; www.world-visa.com.