How to obtain a visa for India in London

Update: Much of the information below is now wrong! Visas take much longer to get – the queues are longer, and if you don’t arrive really early, you’ll be given a ticket to come back at a later date. The best way to learn more is to look through the comments that other people have helpfully supplied – check the most recent ones.

If you ever decide to visit India, you’ll discover at the travel agent that you have to get a visa. At this point you’ll go through several well-defined stages; shock, anger, fear, irritation and acceptance. Then you’ll find out that you have to make the trip to an Indian Consulate (in my case, India House on Aldwych in London), and you’ll go through them all over again. This is a brief guide on how to get a visa for India and what’s involved. This was all applicable in November 2004 – things may have changed by the time you read this and I advise you not to just rely on this guide, just in case.

Quick Facts

1) Don’t worry, it’s not actually that difficult
2) You can be in and out within two hours
3) If you make sure you clearly and fully complete your application form, then things will go much quicker
4) Bring a magazine or a book

Before you go

I’m going to assume that you have already visited the High Commission of India’s website, downloaded the visa form and decided on when to go to the commission. The website also has a list of official holidays at the commission when they’ll be closed – check this because they have a number of holidays and you’ll feel really stupid if you turn up and no-one’s home.

Fill in your form, check it and double-check it. Get two passport-sized photos and make sure you have the correct amount of money for the application fee in cash – they don’t take cheques or credit cards.

When you decide on when you’re going to go get your visa, you might want to consider if there are any holidays around when you go. For example, I visited the commission after two days of holiday (Diwali). As a result, I suspect the queues were longer.

How can I find the commission at Aldwych?

It’s the thing with a huge queue of people snaking out from it (unless you get there absurdly early). It’s hard to miss. The really long queue is the one for visas, the short one is for people with Indian passport enquiries (i.e. not you).


The start of the first queue, disappearing into the distance.


The end of the first queue (you can see the window at the end of the curve)

What time should I turn up?

The commission in London opens at 8:30am. I arrived at 8:35am and there were already over 150 people in the queue in front of me. I think people start queueing up as early as 7:30am, and I talked to a girl who’d been queueing since 7:45am and she got out at 9:45am (i.e. two hours all told). The problem with turning up that early is that while there are fewer people in front of you, you still have to wait for the place to open.

As a result, I think that if you turn up at any time before, say, 9am, it’ll probably take you around two hours altogether. If you leave it any later, you’ll have to wait longer. I really don’t recommend turning up any later than 9:30am since there’s a good chance you won’t be able to pick up your visa that day, or at least you’ll have to wait for much longer than two hours.

What’s the process when I get there?

I heard many people in the queue criticising the commission for an illogical system. That’s not true – it’s perfectly logical and it even is vaguely organised. The only problem is that they seem to have no desire to inform anyone of how it works. Luckily, I do.

The process has three steps; queueing to get a queue number, queueing to hand in your visa application, and waiting to get your completed visa. You’ll notice there’s a lot of queueing involved.

The First Queue: Getting a Queue Number

This is the one outside of India House. I arrived at 8:35am and spent a little under an hour in this queue. It moves along quite regularly. The point of this queue is to show a guy in a window that you have a passport and then to collect a piece of paper with a queue number (or numbers, depending on how many passports and visa applications you’re making). The queue number you collect here (e.g. B69) is for the second queue, inside.

The Second Queue: Handing in your visa appplication

After you collect your queue number, you’ll be allowed inside and walk upstairs to a room with a bunch of commission staff behind windows. There are a lot of seats here and in a side room that also has vending machines.

Once you get upstairs, do not loiter around in front of window 1, which will be directly in front of you when you go through the door at the top of the stairs. Window 1 is for people collecting their completed visas and right now, that’s not you. Instead, go and wait in the main room and get a seat if you can. There’s a display in the corner of the room with the current queue number. Notice that a letter from A to E is also highlighted below the number. The queue number cycles through the letters and goes from A1 to E99, so do not make the all-too-typical mistake of going to a window when it’s your number but not your letter; the staff won’t be impressed.

Since many people there are submitting multiple visa applications (e.g. for friends or family) the queue number tends to go in bursts. I got inside at around 9:30am and the queue number was A77. My number, B69, took about 40 minutes to come up. When it’s your number, go straight to the next free window; don’t worry if they seem to have skipped past your number.

Once you’re at the window, hand over your application, passport, passport photos and money. Do not waste everyone’s time by searching through bags and wallets for the necessary stuff; you just spent at least an hour queueing before this so you don’t have an excuse. This bit only took me a couple of minutes because I’d filled in my form properly and hadn’t been denied a visa in the past. After she’s taken all your stuff, she’ll give you a receipt with your queue number (the same one as before) written on it. She will keep your passport – they need it to process your visa.

Waiting to get your completed visa

They hand out visas at window 1. For some inexplicable reason, there are always loads of people rammed up against this window despite the fact that there can be an hour long wait and also they always call out your number multiple times when they have your visa ready. Who knows why people do this – it certainly doesn’t speed things up.

The staff member who gave you your receipt will tell you how long you can expect to wait if you ask her. I was told it’d be 45 minutes; instead it was only 20 minutes. I put this down to my charming personality, or more likely, the fact that there weren’t any issues with my passport or application. You might as well sit down again at this point and wait for your number to be called out. Don’t fall asleep or listen to music, even if it seems it’ll take ages based on what numbers they’re calling out at the moment; they tend to skip around numbers a lot so they might be calling out B1 in one minute and B60 in the next.

When they call out your number, fight your way through the silly huddle of people around the window and get your passport with your visa inside. They’ll tell you to check it – do it! You are checking to make sure that they’ve gotten your passport number correct, and that the valid dates are correct for when you want to visit (they’ll actually be valid for ages longer than you’ll typically need it).

And then you can leave, all done! Like I said, it took me two hours altogether and I suspect it would be even quicker if I hadn’t gone through after two days of holiday.

Other Questions

Is there a toilet?

While I have not seen it myself I’m told there is one downstairs.

You’re wrong about x

Perhaps I am, I only went there once and things may have changed. Please do not rely on this guide for anything really urgent.

I can’t be bothered queueing up, is there some way I can mail my application in?

You can mail it directly to the commission, or you can use a visa service. The visa services are often much quicker and more expensive. Whether or not you want to use them depends on how much you value your time. I don’t know anything more about them so don’t ask me to recommend one.

Why did you bother writing this?

I estimate that at least 400 people go to the commission every day. That’s up to 100,000 per year. I was not been able to find anything decent online about the actual process of getting a visa before I visited, and for many of the people there, it’s quite a stressful and anxious procedure. I decided that a guide explaining all of the steps involved would make it a little clearer and more understandable for all concerned. Perhaps it might even speed things up!

Will you update this guide?

I sorely doubt it, unless there happens to be a good reason.

I would like to reprint this guide

Email me. There’s a link at the top of this page.

300 Replies to “How to obtain a visa for India in London”

  1. Many thanks for your valuable information. I went to get a Visa on Dec 29th 2006. I arrived at around 10.30am, picked up a ticket almost immediately and was told to come back in 30 mins. My number was eventually called at around 12.45pm and I was told the visa would be ready at 1.45pm. I turned up at that time only to find they had closed upstairs and the staff were tucking into an end of year lunch. Eventually I found someone who could help and he handed over the Visa at a window downstairs.
    In summary it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and as long as you have some reading material the wait is bearable.
    Thanks again.

  2. Got my visa this morning. Thanks for your advice. Started queuing at 8.30. Got ticket and entered building at 9.05. Got to visa counter at 10.05. Received visa at 11.10. But, interestingly enough, I spoke to a guy who arrived at 9.30, queued for 5 mins outside and waited the same lengths of time inside. Maybe he was just lucky but he certainly waited less time queuing in the cold!!

  3. Does the person wanting the visa have to go to London or can a representive go on their behalf and are there any cases where it is not issued on that date.

    P.S. I found your information very interesting

  4. Very helpful thanks.

    Just a couple of things to note:

    1) Make sure you join the visa queue and not the pasport one like I did for 10mins.
    2) when you get your queue ticket it’s just a number, no letters involved.
    3) the visa room is now downstairs.
    4) watch out when your number is near as they are very trigger happy and may go past your number, just remember what window it was and you’ll be cool.
    5) visas handed out at window 7 – it gets crowded but there’s a guy with a little microphone that’s not very loud, so best to stick around there (if they say it’ll take an hour, give it 35mins).

  5. Hi,
    Thanks for the useful information. I will be applying for the tourist visa very soon, but am unsure about Q 36 on the form. What is meant by references both in India (hotel perhaps) and in applicants country?? Or does this apply only for the business visa?
    Thanks a lot – Maria

  6. Hi again,
    I found a completely different form than that I downloaded from the Indian Embassy website.
    It looks better and I guess my question is answered by that. Thanks anyway
    Maria

  7. Thanks for this- just a few points to add
    1) if you have a new passport (or one with no previous indian visas inside) when you go to get your visa – be sure to take your old passports with you aswell- as they like to see them for some reasons- (i had the pleasure of having to travel all the way back home and pick up my old ones and then come back)
    2) if this is the first time you are applying for indian visa and you have no family there- you will only be entitled to 3 months instead of the usual 6 months
    3) REMEMBER the visa starts from the day u go to get it- something which i did not read and then found to my shock meant my 3 month visa expired while I would be in India

  8. Hey
    I’m jsut filling in the Indian Visa form and it asks me for two referees in India. What should I put? I don’t know anyone there and haven’t yet booked any accommodation.
    Thanks

  9. Hmm, not too sure about that one. I suspect you’ll want to book accommodation and use someone from there as a reference. I guess you could make someone up, but ultimately the references are there to help you (e.g. if someone really needs to reach you, or if you get hurt).

  10. You can write ref. of the hotels you have booked. Write telephone number. If dont have anything dont makeup anything. Dont forget to write 2 ref. in U.K

  11. I went there and since I am not a UK resident for the last year and didn’t have any proving papers they told me to wait for 3-5 days. I handed in my application and a copy of passport and now I need to call a number and check when it is ready to collect.

    Does anyone know what the difference is betweeen the white and yellow queueing tickets. I got a white and they told be to go downstairs, but another guy he got a yellow and went upstairs…

  12. It is really useful but unfortunately I found it after I got my visa. Only one thing to re-emphasise, check before you queue whether it is for Indian Passport holders or for visa. I wasted 30 minutes in wrong queue.

  13. Hi I need to do this but I have to be able to get to work by 10 in the morning! Do you think this would be possible? Also can you queue up, leave your passport and then come and collect it the next day? Thanks

  14. Jane: You could always use one of the visa services. You’ll have to send your passport and forms to them and it’ll be more expensive, but it’ll be quicker. I’ve never used any so I can’t recommend anything though!

  15. Any decent Travel Agent will provide visa services. The one I use frequently will charge a total of £77 for an Indian visa and it will take 5 working days. You could ask the Travel Agent to collect and deliver your passport to your office or home address. £77 is made of 3 components: £30 for the visa fee, £32 for the handling agent, £15 for the travel agent (the company you deal with directly). However, if you book your air tickets through your travel agent, they would normally waive their fee. Under such circumstances, you will only need to pay £62. For those who could not spare the time to go to Aldwych, this is a very good option indeed.

  16. Dear Applicant’s,

    As some of you may already know the Indian High Commission will no longer accept postal applications in the UK.

    Your 2 options are:

    1) Go in person – Please note that as of September 2007 die hard visa applicant’s start to queue from about 6.30am

    2) You can use an authorised agency like ourselves!

    We offer a standard 4 working day service for £66.00 including return delivery (Visa Fee £30/Handling Fee £29/Special Delivery Post £7 )

    We also offer an expedited service for those running short on time!

    You can call one of our helpful Visa Consultants on 020 7833 9080 or visit http://www.thetravelvisacompany.co.uk/india.htm

    We hope that this information is useful – Thank you for reading.

  17. This was very useful information, thanks. I never would have brought cash or known what queue to stand in. I almost got into trouble because the business reference letterhead ran off the bottom of the page. You must be able to see the address. The man behind the counter told me off and rolled his eyes at me, but gave me the visa anyway. Arrived at 08:30 and had my visa at 10:30.

  18. Two up really helpful pieces of info:
    1) DO NOT BRING ANY BAG OTHER THAN A SMALL BAG FOR YOUR APPLICATION/FORMS. I HAD TO RETURN TO MY HOTEL TO DUMP MY CABIN SIZED SUITCASE! You are not allowed in the building with anything other than “a ladies purse” according to the notive. Practically, even a laptop bag may be disallowed.
    2) I arrive 7.30am Monday, out with Visa and soaked to the skin by 9.30am!

  19. Very usefull site, does anyone know if it is possible to get your visa application processed at the Indian consulate on Saturdays? Since their website quotes working hours between Monday and Friday.

  20. Looks like things are deteriorating since they stopped accepting postal applications, or else there is a surge in applicants.

    Today: arrived 8:45. Queue to reach window for 2 hours (with many people still behind me). By this time they had stopped accepting applicants directly into the hall and I was given a ticket to return at 2pm. Arrive 2pm – visa obtained within 45 minutes. When I left the 3pm crowd was arriving.

    My advice is:

    1) No luggage (they do seem happy with rucksacks, small briefcases etc, but it seems a bit arbitrary – it’s your risk).
    2) Arrive BEFORE 8:30am if you want to get the visa that morning. In fact I think 7:30 am is probably advisable on the experience today.
    3) You can collect the next day, but frankly once you’ve actually handed over your passport and money the remaining wait is insignificant – may as well tough it out.
    4) Just go through a visa agency!

  21. I obtained my Visa yesterday (26th Sept 2007).
    I joined the queue at 9am, and eventually reached the window at 11.30 am. A queue of two and a half hours.
    I was given a queue number and told to come back at 2pm, which i did.
    My queue number was 90, and I waited for exactly an hour before I was seen inside.

    The Visa application window is open from 8.30 till 12. They will close the window either at 12.00, or whne they have handed out 1500 “Q” numbers (I think they mean “queue” ). One visa application, one queue number. So based on my experience, anyone turning up after 9.30am is likely to have a long wait, then be turned away.
    One more word of advice. Wrap up warm. The queue is in the shade all morning, but not sheltered from the wind. You will freeze.

    Unless you absolutely have no choice, use a visa agency.

  22. Just jumped though all of the hoops – plan on a whole day “invested”…

    First step (queue outside to Bush House starting at 0930): 2 hours

    Second step (inside once the office opens again at 1400): 1.5 hours

    Third step (to pick up the passport): 1 hour

    All of the advice and observations in the posts and article above are pretty much spot on. However, be sure to be on-time getting to the building for thte “second step” at 1400. If your number is called – they will not wait to move on to the next number.

    There’s a video of the queue outside on youtube…

    By the way, cheers for your very informative article – much apprecaited!

  23. Anyone know what is the latest time in the day that the Embassy will issue a Visa if you get there early?. I will turn up at 6.30am in a couple of days (got turned away today after 2 hours queue) and I need to know whether I may be given a come-back time to collect visa as late as say 3.00pm or later the same day.

  24. I arrived 7.20am on a Monday, waited in pouring rain. Out with visa by 9.30am. Very efficient i thought!

    There was a much larger queue waiting for Indian passports. Make sure you don’t wait in that queue – as there are plenty of people like me who will join the end of the passport queue in front of you. On rainy days the queues merge together which makes things tricky.

  25. Very useful article and comments. Thank you.

    They seem to be getting absolutely swamped with people at the moment… We got there at 7.30am this morning and didn’t get our ticket till 11am.

    Our tickets are for TOMORROW as all the ones for today had already been given out (maybe they started giving them out yesterday). I’ll see what happens when I go back at my allocated time of 11am tomorrow.

    It was the couple in front of us’s SECOND DAY queuing, on the previous day they hadn’t got there early enough and had got near the front only to be turned away!!! They didn’t live in London so were having to pay train fares each time they came to try and get their visa!

    Another bloke I spoke to was on his THIRD visit… He’d come last week and been turned away without even getting a ticket. He came yesterday and got there at 7am and queued for 3 hours to get a ticket. THE TICKET WAS FOR THE NEXT DAY THOUGH so he’d had to come back again at his allocated time today to actually apply & get his visa.

    Some people were getting very irate as they were due to fly tonight but were not going to be able to get a visa today. One woman was refusing to move away from the ticket window because she needed a visa today and they had to call security to remove her.

    I’ll be back at my allocated time tomorrow now I’ve got my Q tickets but if I was doing it all over again I would JUST PAY FOR A VISA SERVICE!!!

    For the sake of an extra £40 quid compared to wasting hours of your life standing in queues over several days, I know what I’d choose…

  26. Very helpful. I have just read that you can only get a 28 day stay in goa. We plan to stay 32 days
    is this possible? help anyone.

  27. Went in this morning (Fri 5th October 2007) to get the visa. Having read the previous post I was a little concerned and arrive at 6.45am. There were about 100 people ahead of me but the door was in site. Queue started moving at about 8.20 to get the ticket to go inside and apply for the visa.

    I recieved my ticket and was inside handing the form over by about 9.20. A word of warning – the numbers come up very fast and they don’t hang around so pay attention. I was told to come back between 15.00 and 16.30 to collect my visa which I am now waiting to do.

    I did meet a couple who had arrived at 7.30 on Thursday only to end up getting issued a ticket for today. They did not have to queue again for a ticket but there ticket number for handing over the application was after the numbers for all the other applications today – i.e. they had to sit in the hall and wait for todays ticket holders to do there stuff first.

    I will let you know how I get on later when I go to pick up my visa.

  28. Oh My god.. I cant beleive what i went through on Tuesday last week. Havin got to the embassy at 7.30, i still had to wait for 2 hours before getting a ticket. When i got to the window i was told that all the days tokens had been distributed and i should come the following day. Having travelled all the way from Bristol, it was just a nightmare. I ended up using one of those visa services “Prince Visa”. A bit expensive but better than that queue anyday.
    All please dont waste your time just use a visa agency. I gave my passport to them on Wednesday and got it back through DHL today. Well worth it.

  29. I noticed the poor spelling and grammar in my last message – written in a bit of a rush with lack of sleep. Picked up the visa at 15.30 in about 5 minutes. Not bad.

  30. Went this morning. got in queue at 8, got to first window at 11am and was given tickets for friday morning (the earliest time)

  31. Hey himalayanlearning.
    I would like the ticket if it is still available.
    I was planning to queue to save money from using a service.
    Since I dont line in London I’d be extremely grateful for a ticket.
    Could you contact me at:
    regi.public(at)gmail.com

    Where (at) is the @ symbol (to stop spam bots spaming me!)

    Thank-you

  32. A special visit from the Portsmouth, arrived tues 9th at 8:15, queued for three and half hours only to be given a ticket to return after 3:30 NEXT TUESDAY. No explanation of what the ticket was, the man at the window wouldn’t answer any questions, security at the door wouldn’t answer any questions, referring everyone back to the previous window (or rather the enormous queue to get back to the window.) I don’t know if I can risk coming back in one weeks time as if something goes wrong I won’t have time before the flight. So, do I come back tomorrow pre 6:30 and try the early lottery??
    An absolute shambles, and the process looks past bursting point. If I hadn’t already booked my flight I would have cancelled the trip and spent my money in someone else’s country. I strongly advise anyone to either use passpport agency or even better just don’t go to the damn country.
    I’m bloody furious, but I’m nowhere near as bad as most of the other people who were in the queue around me.

  33. Hi – I went this morning and was in the queue by 5am. They opened the doors at 8.20 and although most of us were expecting just to get a ticket, they actually ushered us through for a visa, and I had my full visa issued by 9.40. Dare I say it was actually quite fun chatting with people in the queue -and I was glad I went as early as I did.
    Re the agencies – I’m sure lots of them are great, but remember no one will look after your passports and forms like you will yourself. Even though I would have submitted mine to an agency if I’d been able to – having seen the mayhem, I’m glad I took it myself.
    Good luck!
    Great blog – thank you for starting it. Certainly soothed my nerves before I went!

  34. Think I was one of the group with the above ‘poster’. Seems to work like this: the new travel agent reps start to drop in some time after 6am. They write a note of how many Qtickets they want that day on an unofficial list by the window. At 8.30 the staff know how many ‘today’s Qtickets’ will then be left over for Joe public. I started queuing at 5.30. Pick up a white ticket at 8.30, straight downstairs, didn’t even sit down as my number was being called as I arrived. Back in 1 hour and on my way with 3 visas by 9.45am. Noted that as I went past India house later (11am) there were still people joining the queue down past the BBC – must have still been 400 there! So – get there before 5am and there’s still hope on the day. At least you get to meet some nice people before breakfast!

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