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What does it take for a US Citizen to travel to India

The United States and India are both welcoming to each other’s citizens visiting for tourism and other reasons for visiting. However, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and high case counts in India and the United States, both countries have developed travel restrictions and other health and safety protocols for international visitors. This article discusses what is generally required for a U.S. citizen to visit India, as well as requirements established due to the pandemic. 

General Requirements for U.S. Citizens to Visit India

U.S. citizens and U.S. government officials can enter India with a valid U.S. passport and a valid Indian visa.

U.S. Passport Requirement 

In order to enter India, U.S. citizens must have a valid U.S. passport that will remain valid for at least six months beyond the date of the visa application to obtain an Indian Visa. Moreover, the passport must have at least two blank passport pages so customs officials in India can stamp the passport.

Individuals who are U.S. citizens by birth or naturalization, or who are U.S. nationals, are eligible for a U.S. passport. The process to apply for a U.S. passport can be found on the U.S. Department of State’s website. Options are available for expedited and normal processing times; however, the State Department warns that processing speeds may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Indian Visa Requirement 

Generally, international travelers entering India must have an Indian Visa upon entry to the country. U.S. citizens are eligible to receive India’s visa, called the e-visa, which allows entry into India for one (1) month, one (1) year, or five (5) years. Once an e-visa is approved, the U.S. citizen will receive an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) that they must bring with them in order to enter into India.

U.S. citizens who wish to travel to India for recreation must apply for the e-visa prior to departing the United States for India. An e-visa can be applied for online through the Indian government. Applicants must upload a photo of themselves that conform to requirements listed on the e-visa website. The e-visa can be applied for at least 4 days prior to a visit to India, but no more than 30 days before the visit. 

There are five subcategories of e-visa that correspond to the purposes of visit. No matter what the purpose of travel, the e-visa must be applied for prior to arriving in India: 

  • E-tourist visa:
      • Available for: 
        • Recreation; 
        • Sight-seeing; 
        • Casual visit to meet friends and relatives; 
        • Attending a short-term yoga program; 
        • Short term informal courses on local languages, music, dance, arts, etc. 
        • Voluntary work of short duration (maximum of one month, no monetary payment or consideration); 
      • Application period: 
        • Apply online minimum 4 days in advance of the date of arrival.
      • Length of validity: 
        • 30 days between July and March; 
        • 30 days between April and June; 
        • One (1) year; OR
        • Five (5) years
      • Visa Fee: 
        • $25 for 30 days between July and March;
        • $10 for 30 days between April and June;
        • $40 for 1 year; 
        • $80 for five-years
  • E-Business visa: 
      • Available for: 
        • Business purpose;
      • Application period: 
        • Apply online minimum 4 days in advance of the date of arrival.
      • Length of Validity:
        • One (1) year
      • Visa Fee: 
        • $80 for one year
  • E-Medical Visa
      • Available for: 
        • Medical treatment; 
      • Application period: 
        • Apply online minimum 4 days in advance of the date of arrival with a window of 120 days.
      • Length of Validity:
        • One (1) year for multiple entries.
      • Visa Fee: 
        • $80 for one year
  • E-Medical Attendant Visa
      • Available for: 
        • Attendant to e-Medical visa holder; 
      • Application period: 
        • Apply online minimum 4 days in advance of the date of arrival with a window of 120 days.
      • Length of Validity:
        • 60 days for three entries
      • Visa Fee: 
        • $80 for 60 days
  • E-Conference Visa
  • Available for:
  • Attending a publicly or privately organized conference, seminar, or workshop
    • Application period: 
      • Apply online minimum 4 days in advance of the date of arrival
    • Length of Validity:
      • 30 days for single entry
    • Visa Fee: 
      • $80 for 60 days

After applying for the e-visa online, a U.S. citizen who is approved for the e-visa should see that the e-visa website shows their status as “GRANTED” before departing for India. Entry into India for the first time must be made within the date range indicated on the visa.

U.S. citizens entering India must have with them:

  • Valid U.S. passport; 
  • A return ticket or onward journey ticket upon arrival;
  • Sufficient money to afford their stay in India;
  • A copy of their ETA document, printable from the e-visa website, upon arrival in India. 

Upon arrival in India, a U.S. citizen is not guaranteed entry into the country, though it is rare for entry to be refused. U.S. citizens will be required to provide biometric details upon arrival, which may take some time. If arriving from a country affected by Yellow Fever, U.S. citizens must also carry a vaccination card with them when entering India. 

E-visa holders can enter India at any one of the following designated airports: 

  • Ahmedabad
  • Amritsar
  • Bagdogra
  • Bengaluru
  • Calicut
  • Chennai
  • Chandigarh
  • Cochin (and its seaport)
  • Coimbatore
  • Delhi
  • Gaya
  • Goa (and its seaport)
  • Guwahati
  • Hyderabad
  • Jaipur
  • Kolkata
  • Lucknow
  • Mangalore (and its seaport)
  • Mumbai
  • Nagpur
  • Pune
  • Tiruchirappalli
  • Trivandrum
  • Varanasi

COVID-19 Guidance from the United States Government 

The U.S. Department of State issues travel advisories and guidance for U.S. citizens travelling abroad. In October 2021, the State Department advised travellers to exercise increased caution when travelling to India due to COVID-19 outbreaks, among other concerns, including terrorism and the potential for armed conflict near India’s border with Pakistan. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also recommends that U.S. citizens only travel internationally if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

India has been subject to a travel ban, issued by Presidential Proclamation, that bars nonimmigrant travelers entry into the United States if they are arriving from India or had been present in India within two weeks of travel to the United States. 

The U.S. government announced beginning November 8, 2021, travel bans imposed via Presidential Proclamation will be lifted for fully vaccinated foreign travellers. This will allow fully vaccinated Indians to travel directly to the United States without having to first quarantine for two weeks in a country not subject to a travel ban. 

COVID-19 Guidance from Indian Government

In response to a large number of COVID-19 cases in India, the government severely restricted international travel into India, including a cease in e-tourist visas issuance. Since February 22, 2021, a negative COVID-19 test has been required to enter India regardless of vaccination status. Visitors to India must visit this website to submit a Self-Declaration Form and upload a negative RT-PCR report from COVID-19 testing to the Air Suvidha portal taken at least 72 hours prior to departure for India.

India announced that travel to India for tourism and other short-term purposes will fully resume November 15, 2021 for individuals holding tourist or e-tourist visas issued on or after October 6, 2021. Tourist visas issued before October 2021 will not be valid, even if never used. Travellers to India must apply for a visa after October 6, 2021 or reapply for a visa even if they already applied for and received a visa prior to October 6, 2021. 

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Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.

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