Monday, 20 December 2010

Obtaining an Indian Visa in Dubai

This post is for the benefit of other travellers who are considering their options about obtaining a visa for India. We have met several people in this situation, and as there doesn’t seem to be much information about this on the internet, we decided to post our experiences. This information is current as of December 2010 and obviously only reflects our own experiences. ||

When we planned our bike trip from London to Melbourne, we had hoped to get our Indian visa in Turkey, but this turned out not to be feasible. As of summer 2010, new regulations meant that India was only issuing 3 month visas to people applying outside of their home country. The time starts ticking as soon as you receive the visa, so this was not an option for us as we had to cycle through Turkey and Iran first, before we even reached India.

For us, the best option was to apply in Dubai, as it was on our route and there was an Indian consulate. We were planning to fly from Dubai to India, so we could really make the most of our 3 month visa. We submitted our application at the Central Post Office in the Karama district of Dubai. The office is open Saturday – Thursday from 8am to 8pm. We had to submit the following:

- Visa application form, downloadable from the consulate website

- Two recent passport sized photos

- Original passport and photocopy of the photo page of the passport

- Photocopy of the UAE visa or entry stamp

- Reference form with a clear address in your home country, downloadable from the consulate website. This is used for faxing the Indian representation in your home country to ask if there are any objections to you travelling to India – if they don’t hear anything back within 3 days, they consider this to mean “no objections”

- Copy of a hotel booking confirmation in India (we just booked a hotel for one night and cancelled the booking later)

We had to pay a fee of 140 AED on application. Our passports were checked and handed back to us. We were told that the processing time was 6-7 working days to approve the application, plus 2 more days to place the visa in your passport. The catch is that all non-working days either in the UAE or in your home country don’t count. For us it meant that Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and any public holidays did not count as working days (our nationalities are Australian and German), so the process took around 2 weeks in total.

We were given a barcode and an internet address where we could check the progress of our application. After 5 working days, the application had been approved. This meant that we had to go back to the visa office to submit our passports and pay an additional fee of 150 AED. The passports were then sent to the consulate to place our visa stickers in.

Normally the passports would then be sent back to us by courier, but as we did not have a consistent address or reliable mobile phone number in Dubai, we were told we could go and pick them up ourselves 2 days later. We much preferred this anyway as we did not like the idea of entrusting our passports to the mail system. To pick up our passports, we had to go to a different Empost office near the airport.

When we got there at the appointed time, we were in for a shock: Guy’s passport was not on the system, and we were told it might arrive the next evening. Freddie’s passport had been delivered to some guy called Rudy, address unknown! Eventually the courier was called and explained that he had delivered the passport to a hotel we had previously stayed at, so we went and picked it up there.

The following evening, we called and were told Guy’s passport was still not ready. After kicking up a bit of a fuss, we were told to get in touch with the consulate directly to find out what the reason for the delay was. When we finally got in touch with them, we were told that they “were unable to locate the visa application” – i.e. they had lost it! Luckily they still had the passport, and we were asked to visit the consulate immediately to sort this out.

Arriving at the consulate, the officer asked Guy for a passport photo, an application form, and … his passport! A moment of panic ensued, with Guy almost losing it when he said to the officer: “YOU have my passport!” While we filled in the application form, the officer managed to locate the passport, and finally the visa sticker was put in. We both had received a 3 month visa for India, after 15 days of waiting.

Lessons: Try to provide a reliable address when you first apply, as address changes seem to cause confusion. It also helps to have a reliable mobile phone number. The rest is a question of luck!

Of course this information is subject to change. You can check for up to date information on the website of the Indian Consulate. Click on Services – Visa and scroll down to the section for tourist visas for non-UAE residents.

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