1. Citizens of Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal do not need visas to enter India.
2. Tourists from Finland, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, Luxembourg, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia can get their visa on arrival at the airports in Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi or Kolkata.
3. All other nationalities require visas from beforehand.
4. Depending on your reason for visit, your visa can be valid for different periods. However, they might have a limitation of a maximum duration for which you’re allowed to stay at a stretch. Also, an Indian visa is valid from the day of issue rather than date of entry.
5. Many Indian embassies have outsourced visa processing in full or in part to third party companies, so check ahead before going to the embassy. Applications through these agencies also attract an application fee, above that which is detailed on most embassy websites and should be checked prior to submitting your paperwork.
6. In addition, many Indian embassies only offer visas to residents of that country: this means you should get your visa before you leave home, instead of trying to get in a neighbouring country.
7. It’s wise to ask for a multiple entry visa even if you aren’t planning to use it – they cost the same, are handed out pretty liberally and come in handy if you decide last minute to dip into one of the neighbouring countries. However, even on multiple entry visas there is supposed to be a two month gap between leaving India and coming back into the country. However, a visit to the Indian embassy in the country from which you plan to enter India and complete the paperwork authorizing the early entry. The embassy will paste an endorsement sticker in your passport, and you’ll be set to re-enter India.
8. There are other categories for specialized purposes. The missionary visa is mandatory for anyone who is visiting India “primarily to take part in religious activities”. This rule is meant to combat religious conversion. There have been cases where preachers have been deported for addressing religious congregations while on a tourist visa. However, you don’t need to be worried if you are just on a religious tour of churches in India.
9. If you are on a Student, Employment, Research or Missionary visa, you need to register within 14 days of arrival with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office where you will be staying. If the place you are staying at doesn’t have one, you need to register at the local police station. All visitors who intend to stay more than 180 days also need to be registered.
10. Overstaying a visa is to be avoided at all costs as you will be prevented from leaving the country until you have paid some fairly hefty fines and presented a large amount of paperwork to either the local immigration office or police station. This whole process is unlikely to take less than 3 days, and can take much longer if you include weekends and numerous government holidays.