Pakistan and India Visa Information
In 2018, I planned to visit Pakistan in summer, and India in the autumn. But, I quickly started to worry: I wasn’t even certain if it was possible to get a visa for both countries in such a short time frame. Someone even told me it was impossible.
India and Pakistan don’t get along (they’re technically still at war). I’d heard both are reluctant to issue visas to those who already have a recent (in the last 6 months) visa from the other country (e.g., I’d heard it would be difficult to get my Indian visa about three weeks before my Pakistan trip, as I’d already have the PK visa stamp).
Thankfully, this post is all about how I had no problems with either of my visas, the visa process was quick (approx. 5 days), and we had no in-country visa issues.
Note: I’m British, which may have helped my situation.
I was so concerned about the Pakistan/Indian visa cross-over problem, I investigated getting a second passport. My request was declined by the Foreign Office, which was a pain, but helped calm my fears about the problem. It’s much easier to get a second passport in the US, which is what a couple of climbers have done.
I used Visa HQ services, as I only had 3 weeks before my trip and thus needed the visa ASAP. Although expensive (about £250) and (perhaps) unnecessary - I’ve heard the normal processing time is around a week, regardless of if you use a company like Visa HQ - it was good to track the progress, and have someone check my application before it was submitted. I communicated with Visa HQ and they were helpful. I’d recommend them again.
This is the form you’ve got to fill in:
The length of documents required for the application is a bit ridiculous, but just include as much as possible to ensure there are no problems. The checklist is here: https://www.phclondon.org/visa/britishnational/visit/
I sent off the application and my passport to Visa HQ, and my passport and visa was returned after 5 days.
The Indians are world class at bureaucracy. As Uisdean says, ‘everything’s so disorganised, it somehow becomes organised.’
Here goes… There are two types of visas.
1) If you are an ordinary tourist, or a climber with a peak on the ‘Open Permit’ list, you can apply for an ‘e-visa' online, and then do the rest of the simple process when you arrive.
2) Our peak, however, was on the ‘Closed/X Permit’ list, which means you have to apply for a visa in the UK, before arrival. Avoid this at all costs - it’s a pain. A popular trick used by experienced climbers is to find the nearest ‘Open’ peak nearby, and apply for that, and then climb whatever you like upon arrival at base camp. Your Liaison Officer won’t know/care.
You can see which peaks are on the Open or Closed list according to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation here: https://www.indmount.org/IMF/getPeaks?type=op
This year, mine, Will and Uisdean’s objective was unfortunately on the ‘Closed/X Permit’ list. We had to complete online forms and then submit our application, in person, to an Indian visa office. Details below.
This is what we did:
Go to the bottom left of the page and click Apply Online (this link doesn’t always work; try multiple times).
Fill in all the forms.
Note the reference numbers you’re given, especially the number starting with GBR.
Then print out the form, sign it, and include two Indian-sized passport photos (note: these are different to regular sized photos.
Or try here: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/StatusEnquiry
Log in and pay for your application (about £110). Print your proof of payment.
Then book an appointment to submit your application to your nearest Visa Centre. Note that some Visa Centres have weird rules. E.g. Birmingham Centre covers certain extra UK postcodes.
Use this checklist before you go:
Proof of payment
Permit from IMF (your agent should sort this)
You turn up, they take your forms, and that’s it! Phew. What a crazy process. All you have to do it wait… Hopefully they’ll send your passport back with a new, shiny visa.
This page (High Commission of India in London) has a lot of info which helps:
Photos from my trip to Zanskar valley, Jammu and Kashmir, India. Credit: Uisdean Hawthorn