Foreign nationals from anywhere in the world, except those NRIs holding OCI Cards and citizens of Bhutan and Nepal, must apply for a visa through the India Visa process. The Government of India issues various types of visas related to the reason for visiting India and the country of origin. To facilitate travelers, many Indian Missions/Posts around the world have outsourced their visa, passport, and consular services since 2006. These foreign countries all have an Indian Mission or Consulate, and since most international Indian Missions or Posts now outsource their India visa processing to third-party services in the form of Indian Visa Centers (VACS), it is through these that applications for Indian visas are made.
OUTSOURCING INDIA’S VISA PROCESSING
Rather than the Indian Consulates or Indian Missions/Posts administrating visa applications all around the world, they have largely outsourced this to Visa Application Centers or VACs which provide a front-line service for Indian Immigration. They conduct all administrative, non-decision-making acts pertaining to Indian visa applications in countries where application numbers are high. Their goal is not only to help applicants with the often-overwhelming bureaucracy involved in applying for a visa, but also to simplify challenging or emergency applications. Visa application centers possess the expertise, technology, and experience necessary to seamlessly process information dissemination, automated application and appointment system helplines, collection and remittance of fees, biometric enrolment and convenient services in the visa application procedure. Indian visa application centers provide a legitimate service under the control of the Indian Government, experience and expertise, reliability and prompt assistance and customer support 24 hours a day, seven days a week either online, telephonically, via email or personally. Agencies charge a handling fee for services in addition to the Government fee charged which is paid over to the Indian Government.
THE OUTSOURCING AGENCIES
In the United States, Indian visa applications are handled by Cox and Kings Global Services. In Australia, Belgium, France, Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Netherlands, and the UK, it’s VFS Global. BLS International handles visa applications in Austria, Poland, Lithuania, Spain, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Republic of Korea, Philippines, Singapore, UK, and South Africa.
Some countries use visa management companies to assist with coordinating the visa application process. India employs the likes of Travisa Outsourcing which are not a visa service company but rather a middleman responsible for collecting visa applications from applicants, passing them on to the Indian Embassy for processing, and then returning the passport with visa to the applicant. Not being a visa service center, it does not provide customer service.
HOW TO APPLY
Applicants simply apply online for an online Indian visa where approval is typically forthcoming within four business days. For regular visas, applications must be made through the Indian visa application centers, starting with the same online process, after which the VAC collects the supporting documents, arranges the interview and receives the passport from the Indian Consulate which bears the appropriate visa.