Applying for a visa in India is a tedious process. Unlike many countries that simply stamp your passport upon arrival, and maybe charge a minor fee, India requires a lengthy visa application, with details like past travel, and identifying marks or bodily features, as well as a hefty fee for processing.
We began our visa process at the website for the Indian consulate in New York City, where we learned that India has recently outsourced their entire visa process to a company called Travisa. (Insert here any outsourcing jokes you might be tempted to make.) The process is fairly straightforward, but it takes some time to complete all the requirements.
To start, I needed a few copies of a standard 2×2 passport photo (white background, no glasses, etc.), as they’re needed for this application, and will also be needed in India during passport processing for the future baby(ies). Getting those extra photos now, in the U.S., will undoubtedly save us from additional hassle later in Mumbai or Delhi.
Once I had my photos, I completed the India Visa Application Form online. Visas are offered for 6 months, 5 years, or 10 years. As the surrogacy process will require at least two visits, 9 months apart, we opted for the 10-year visa (the 5- and 10-year visas are the same cost, so why not guarantee yourself as much time as possible?).
When I finished the application, I printed a copy, affixed a copy of the 2×2 passport photo in the appropriate box, and signed the papers.
Next, you have to use a scanner or smartphone to make a copy of the entire first page of the application, and then use that cropped image of the 2×2 photo and signature on the Travisa site for the next step in processing. (I know this sounds strange, but there are helpful videos on the Travisa website to help navigate this part of the process.) The Travisa online form can’t be completed until the India Visa Application has been submitted, as they provide a Web File number that will link both applications.
After completing both applications, the site gave me a selection of times to drop off the paperwork at the Travisa India Outsourcing Center at 316 East 53rd St. in Manhattan.
I picked the 11:20 a.m. time slot, but arrived at 10:50, a full half hour earlier than required. I’m glad did, because I didn’t even reach the front of the line until 11:30 a.m. The check-in attendant looked at my documents, checked the photo against my actual passport photo, and sent me to another line for payment processing. The experience at the Outsourcing Center was time consuming, but everything was conducted in a professional manner and my application went in without complications.
Travisa told me that I should get an e-mail and text message in 3-4 working days, notifying me that the visa was available for pick-up. The total cost was $166, payable in cash, money order, or credit card. Credit card transactions add a few days to the processing time, though, so I opted for cash payment, and made sure to get a receipt. (Always good to have a paper trail if something goes wrong later.)
You have to leave your passport with Travisa during the visa process–it felt strange to leave behind such an important, hard-to-replace document–so make sure that you aren’t planning any weekenders to the Caribbean while going through the application process.
After submitting my visa paperwork, I popped over to my urologist for the next step in the process.
More on that, next….