Most international travel requires a visa from the country to be visited, allowing you to enter. In many cases this can simply done when you arrive, other visas must be obtained in advance and some can be quite complex to arrange. In some cases it is best to pay for the services of a company that specializes in obtaining visas.
The Author recently began preparing for a trip to India. For those considering such a trip, beware the India visa process. India, despite being the beneficiary of many outsourcing contracts from the US, recently outsourced its visa process to Travisa Outsourcing. Travisa Outsourcing is related to Travisa, a visa and passport company. It is, however, interesting to note that while Travisa’s website brags about the fact that it is now the source for India visas, a call to Travisa visa section results in a response, that Travisa Outsourcing is a different company.
Meanwhile, it is near impossible to get to anyone at Travisa Outsourcing by phone or email. Perhaps they want you to hire Travisa to assist you. Interesting, Travisa Outsourcing warns you not to book a non-refundable trip to India until you have obtained your visa.
While I fault Travisa Outsourcing for making it difficult to obtain answers to questions about the visa forms and processes, a large part of the problem is the form itself. Despite having outsourced the process, the country of India has insisted on using its own form on its own website. You, therefore, have to go through the Travisa Outsourcing site to an India website, and through it to get to the form. India, a country which provides internet services to the world, has created one of the most user unfriendly sites for its visa form. In addition, someone in India has not maintained the site license and when you try to get to the form your computer will give you all kinds of warnings about the site. This is particularly scary as, upon reaching the site, you are asked 3 pages of personal questions. If you want a tourist visa you, apparently, cannot avoid a trip to this website, it appears that going in person to the office still requires that you fill out the on line form, requires at least two visits to the office, and, if Yelp is to be believed, using the D.C. office is even more of a pain then the on line process.
The three page form contains a number of defaults and, while you are filling out the form, sometimes changes your answers back to the default, particularly if you temporarily sign out. Warning check carefully, study the Travisa Outsourcing video, and read all the Travisa Outsourcing side notes! Among other questions the form asks is for a reference in India. If, like the Author, you are going on a tour, you are not likely to know anyone. A tip, get the name and address of your first hotel from your travel company and use that. If you have been to India before the form asks for your last visa number and where you stayed. If, like the author, your last visit was 40 years ago, good luck in finding this information (the Author wrote “unknown”). The site also asks you to upload a photo, but would not take one. If you complete the form, you find out that you can just glue one to the application.
Once you have finished the 3 page India application, you must go on to the Travisa Outsourcing application which you have to link to the India application. Be forewarned, when filling out this application, you will need a digital photo of your picture and signature on the India form which you will have to upload, crop, and place. The Travisa Outsourcing website tells you that you cannot write in changes on either of the forms and tells you that any errors will cause delays or cause you to not get a visa. Finally, the shipping forms would not print properly. Even if you don’t use a visa company it will cost you about $124 to obtain a visa and Travisa Outsourcing warns you that this money will not be returned if the government of India decides not to issue one.
Once you have sent off your visa application, the whole situation seems to change. The visa was processed promptly and, despite my fears that I had erred in certain areas, the visa was granted without issue. Travisa Outsourcing was quite good on this end. They notified me when they got my electronic paperwork, when they received my passport and paper application, and I could track things throughout the process.
Travisa and various other visa processing companies will, for a fee, help you with the process. As it appeared that you had to fill out the on line form, in any case, the Author asked Travisa what they did for the extra money they charge. The response was that they review your form and tell you how to correct it. For some, this peace of mind might be worthwhile.