Applying for India visas in the UK
Applying for India Visa in the UK is through a company called VFS. You submit visa application to VFS office in person. They will check your application form and documents and pass them to the nearest Consulate General of India in the UK. Once your visa is issued, your passport will be returned to VFS. It then uses VX courier or Royal mail to deliver to your address.
VFS online tracking system is useless since the company is just a layer of interface to India Embassy and it knows nothing about the status of your visa application unless your application is on its way to the embassy or your passport is on the way back to your address.
It is also pointless to ring the VFS call centre on 0905 757 0045, which is a premium rate number cost 95 pence per minute. If you really want to speak to them, use the local number 020 7811 3976.
It is useless to contact VFS if you want to check the progress of your visa application, because they are not involved in visa application process and they won’t contact India Embassy for you in most cases. All they do is checking documents and delivering them. You may have to directly contact the Consulate general in the India Embassy that process your application.
The processing time on vfs website is the minimum time. A more realistic timeline is, if you are UK citizen it takes about 2 weeks.
For the reason you can guess, nationals of China, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan may expect that visa applications take about 8 weeks; nationals or origin of Pakistan about 3 months.
Other Non-UK passport holders residing in the UK for less than two years need 3-4 weeks for visa.
If you are a Chinese citizen and living in the UK for less than two years clearance from the India Embassy in Beijing is mandatory; if you are a Chinese citizen and living in the UK for more than two years, you will need clearance from New Deli.
If you apply for India visa for the first time, don’t apply for multiple entry visa for longer than 3 months. Even if you do, you will only receive a single entry visa for 2 or 3 months.
I submitted my first India visa application of a multiple entry one-year business visa. Since I am a Chinese citizen and apply India visa in UK, it took very long time to process it. I have waited for more than 7 weeks for the visa. I was only granted a single entry visa valid for 2 months, and it was too late for my trip. I have missed the scheduled trip and wasted my flight tickets. By the time I received it, my colleague, who is supposed to travel to India with me, has already returned.
During these 7 weeks of “processing time”, I made innumerable phone calls and emails to vfs, the Consulate general of India who was process my application, and even a couple of international phone calls to India Embassy in Beijing, so that at last the Consulate general knows me. The last time when I rang him, before I told him my name he already knew who I was. He sighed and told me that my visa had been granted and sent to vfs. I thanked him and apologised for my nagging. I said silently that it was not my fault, you are just ridiculously slow. Who would expect to wait for almost 2 months to get a 2-month visa? It is even slower than UKBA!
The two-month gap rule
Also note India has a 2-month rule that there has to be two months gap between visits to India. You are not allowed to return to India within 2 months on a Tourist visa. Many tourists have been caught on this and my colleague was too. She had just visited India for holiday within 2 months before the business trip. It caused her business visa took three weeks and she had to go to vfs a number of times to explain the situation and asked a member of staff to contact the consulate general.
It was a nightmare for me to apply for the India visa. I will avoid going to India in the future. If I have to, I hope it would be easier next time.