Traveling to India as an American Citizen: Visa Process and Requirements

Hello there, my former Desi turned American! Planning to return to your roots?

Whether it’s the tantalizing aroma of the neighborhood chaat shop or the unceasing warmth of loved ones that’s calling, the trip back to India is always special.

But wait! Before you pack your bags and queue up the Bollywood songs for the long flight, let’s navigate the somewhat tedious but utterly essential world of visas.

If you’ve traded your Indian passport for an American one, you now need a visa to enter India.

Yep, it’s true, even if you can sing the Indian national anthem better than your American peers can do “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Let’s get you sorted.

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Step 1: Choose Your Visa Type

India offers a variety of visas, but the two most relevant ones for former NRIs now holding American citizenship are the Tourist Visa and the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card.

  1. Tourist Visa:
    If you’re planning a short visit, then this is your go-to option. It’s typically valid for six months to 10 years, allowing multiple entries but with a stipulation that there must be a gap of at least two months between two visits.
  2. OCI Card:
    The OCI Card is a sort of ‘lifetime visa’ that allows you to travel to India as often as you wish, and to stay as long as you want. It also grants you a host of other privileges similar to an Indian citizen, except for the right to vote, hold constitutional positions, or purchase agricultural/plantation properties.

Step 2: Apply

  1. Tourist Visa:
    You can apply for an Indian Tourist Visa at the nearest Indian embassy or consulate, or through the official outsourced agency, VFS Global.
  2. OCI Card:
    The OCI application process is a bit longer and more complicated. You apply online through the Ministry of Home Affairs’ OCI portal, after which you need to submit your documents in person or mail them to your nearest Indian mission/post or FRRO/FRO.

Step 3: Gather Your Documents

The paperwork is going to differ slightly based on whether you opt for a Tourist Visa or an OCI Card.

  1. Tourist Visa: Typically, you’d need your original passport, passport-sized photographs, proof of residential address, and the completed application form. You might also need to provide an itinerary of your travel plans, including your return ticket.
  2. OCI Card: The list is longer here – a proof of present citizenship, evidence of self or parents or grandparents being a former citizen of India, proof of renunciation of Indian citizenship, and passport-sized photographs, among others.

Step 4: Pay and Wait

  1. Tourist Visa: The visa fee varies, and you pay when you apply. Processing usually takes about 3-5 working days for US citizens, but it can take longer.
  2. OCI Card: The fee is higher here, but remember, it’s for a lifetime. The processing time is considerably longer too – usually 60-90 days, and it can extend.

And that’s it! Once you have your visa or OCI card in hand, you’re ready to fly back to your motherland.

Remember, each application is subject to the discretion of the Indian authorities, so always check the latest official guidelines or consult with the embassy if you’re unsure.

Welcome back to the land of spices, cricket, and Bollywood.

The hustle and bustle, warmth, and chaos await you with open arms. Safe travels!

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