India is one of those pesky counties that requires a visa to enter its borders. In 2004 when, I first visited, I went to a one day visa issuing event in Atlanta held by the Houston consulate and got my 10 year visa with almost no issues or fuss.
By 2010 when I had to get my son’s visa, the Indian consulate had outsourced the visa processing to an outsourcing company. (Ironic, isn’t it.) The visa application now required more paper work, more process, and worst of all, strollers we’re not allowed in the drop off center. I got there to find I didn’t have some of the required information and had to scramble to get it so I could still get the visa. And I had to do it with a newborn stapped to the Baby Bjorn. But at the end of the day, I got his 5 year visa.
In 2011, after my husband became a US citizen I looked into two items unique to India: an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card and a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card. Both cards allow you all the rights of an Indian citizen (except to vote or own aricultural property). Most importanly both allow you unlimited access in and out of India. The differnece is the PIO card is good for 20 years while the OCI card is for life (and therefore a more complicated process). Turns out that both my husband and his children qualify for both the OCI card and the PIO card. And in an interesting twist, as a spouse of a person who qualifies for a PIO card, I qualify for one as well (but not for the OCI). While the process and paperwork is argous, the benefits are huge. We could all is the go to India on the drop of a dime, my children could own property in India, and most importantly we would (almost) never need to deal with the visa agency again!
I had grand plans to get these cards before my daughter was born, but could never seem to get the energy to do all the paperwork. So after the birth I looked online and found a nasty surprise: the OCI card takes over 3 months to complete. I didn’t have time to get it done before this trip. I would need to go through the visa process for both my daughter and my husband. Yes, now I have even more paperwork.
Even more fun, the visa process had gotten more complicated. Now it wasn’t enough for both parents to sign the application of a minor, we needed a thumbprint of the minor as well. Ever shop for stamp ink? People look at you like you have two heads. And as a prerequisite for the visa my husband had to renounce his Indian citizenship and pay for the privilege to do so.
But I finally have all the paperwork together and an appointment with the visa processing center. We have decided to do the visa and renuncification now, and the OCI and PIO application all together when the renunucification certificate is returned.
Wish me luck next week and I hope there are no “surprises” when I go for the visas this time. And, yes they still don’t allow strollers in the center.
To find out more information about what you would need to obtain an Indian visa go to indiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com. The site is very straightforward with clear instructions and videos.