Please note that this process is specific to the Indian High Commission in Johannesburg and for American citizens, though much of this information may also be applicable to other nationalities.
For travelers like us, one of the biggest perks to living in Washington, DC, is the myriad embassies and consulates at your fingertips. We saved money when getting our Russian visa because we were able to go straight to the consulate’s outsourcing agency, Invisa Logistics Services LLC, versus having to mail off our passport. But unfortunately that was the only visa we were able to obtain before leaving the States in June 2012.
The Indian visa we sought is valid for six months from the date of issue. Since we weren’t planning to get to India until December and stay for a few months, the visa would have expired before we arrived in India. So we knew we would have to get it abroad – but where? This was just one of many checklist items that was part of our pre-departure planning.
First, we used Go Abroad’s embassy and consulate locator to see where India had missions abroad. Then we thought about which city made the most sense to get our visa in based on the time of year (remember the validity issue). We also knew that we wanted to do an overland trip through Africa and thought we’d need to get a few African visas beforehand (which are typically valid for 2-3 months), so Johannesburg with its myriad consulates made the most sense.
The High Commission of India’s website had the application available for download and listed all the supporting documents we’d need for our visa application. We printed the application forms before leaving DC only to arrive at the Indian consulate to find out their process had changed – there is now an electronic application that you must fill out and submit online, then print and bring the hard copy to the consulate with your other application documents (passport-size photos, proof of onward departure, etc.).
The process was painless: Show your papers to the security guard who makes sure you have everything and lets you inside the consulate compound. Wait in line (was short and painless for us) to submit your application. The person who collected our application asked us for proof of our flight into India, but since that wasn’t listed on the High Commission’s website as a necessary document, we didn’t include it. After collecting our application and fee (the only acceptable currency is South African rands), they gave us a receipt and told us to return in 6 business days (we submitted on a Thursday and were told to collect our passports the following Friday). Since you can track your application online, we saw on the following Thursday that our passports were ready, and sure enough we were able to collect them on Thursday instead of Friday.
Good to know:
• You can pay in cash (rands) or via bank transfer. Credit cards are not accepted. Fees differ depending on nationality.
• The High Commission does keep your passport while they are processing your visa, so without your passport, you may be unable to rent a car, get money from American Express and the like. (We heard that you can get a certified copy of your passport’s data page and perhaps use that in place of your passport. Something to look into further if you feel you’d need that.)
• Proof of sufficient funds is not accepted in lieu of proof of onward travel (we asked).
• You can check the status of your application online
• Application drop-off hours: 9am-12pm; Passport collection hours: 3-4:30pm
• Address: No. 1 Eton Road (on the corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and Eton Road)
• Printed and signed copy of application submitted online
• Valid passport that won’t expire for at least 6 months and has at least 2 blank pages
• Two passport-size photos
• Confirmed outbound transportation ticket (plane, train, etc.)
• Proof of accommodation in India (hotel booking confirmation, tour confirmation that specifically states India or specific cities as a destination, etc.)
• Cash, if not paying via bank transfer
Not specified as required but may be good to have:
• Confirmed inbound transportation ticket (plane, train, etc.)
• Copy of birth certificate (it was unclear to us whether this was a requirement for South Africans or every nationality, so we submitted this anyway)
Fees (as they appear on our receipt):
• Visa fee: R480
• Fax charges: R120 (based on the website, this is a fee for not being a SA resident)
• Addl/ICWF charges: R25
• Misc charges: R240 (based on the website, this is a fee for being an American citizen)