Update (4 February 2013): There is an online application available here. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BEFORE THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ONLINE APPLICATION.
Getting an Indian visa for Filipinos these days is more difficult than before. When I applied for a tourist visa in 2010, I only spent at an hour inside the embassy to file my application and picked it up after 3 working days. Both were done in a breeze. But early this year, the Indian Embassy in the Philippines announced that it has started outsourcing its visa processing to BLS International effective January 12, 2012. (Read the notice here.) THE EMBASSY NO LONGER ACCEPTS PERSONAL APPLICATIONS AND ALL VISA APPLICATIONS MUST GO THRU BLS INTERNATIONAL.Only passport services for Indian nationals are accepted at the embassy. This reminder is nowhere in the websites of both the embassy and the agency although the outsourcing announcement has been posted. I think it is clearer to state such reminder. Japan Embassy in Manila, for example, specifically states that they do not accept visa applications except for special cases.
BLS International is located along 601-A (6th Floor), One Corporate Plaza, Arnaiz Avenue, Makati City. It is a walking distance from Walter Mart and St. John Bosco Parish Church. When I went there yesterday, confident that I have followed all the instructions posted on the website and all the requirements for a tourist visa, I thought I will only take about an hour to file my application. How wrong I was. I took 4.5 hours!!! The office of the agency is too small; it could probably sit 30 people comfortably. But beyond that, the room gets packed. They have 3 personnel at the counter who check the documents, receive payments and issue receipts, 1 security guard cum photocopy operator, 2 other staff whose responsibilities I am quite unsure about and a manager. The good thing, which somehow compensates the slow process,is that all the personnel are very accommodating but
sometimes oftentimes they become too accommodating that they lose the entire system altogether. The manager was very friendly and understanding and even asked me “Dear, are your documents completed now?” a couple of times. How sweet is that?! :)
As long as you arrive early and have all the requirements, I am sure that even with this new procedure, applying for a visa would be easy. Anyway, for you not to suffer those excruciating hours of sitting idly, here are some tips I can offer based on my experience.
STEP 1: PREPARE YOUR APPLICATION DOCUMENTS
a. Download the application form from here. Accomplish 1 set of form accordingly. DO NOT WRITE N/A, NO DETAILS, or similar answers. WRITE “NO” IF YOU DON’T HAVE AN APPLICABLE ANSWER TO A QUESTION EVENTHOUGH IT’S NOT A YES OR NO QUESTION.
b. Attach 2 pieces of 2X2 ID pictures. Ideally, paste one on the space for ID and staple the other one beside it.
c. Attach 2 copies of the first page of your passport. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months, or better yet for at least a year.
d. Attach 1 copy of confirmed roundtrip tickets. NO ROUNDTRIP TICKETS, NO VISA.
e. Attach 1 copy of your bank certificate to prove that you have enough finances to cover your travel expenses in India.
f. If you have a sponsor from India, attach 1 copy of your sponsor’s SIGNED invitation letter and bank certificate/s. An invitation letter with itinerary is better.
g. Staple all these together, in order, then you’re good to go.
h. If you are submitting on behalf of other people, make sure that you have their LETTER AUTHORIZING YOU TO FILE THE APPLICATION ON THEIR BEHALF WITH THEIR SIGNATURES, YOUR SIGNATURE AND A PHOTOCOPY OF YOUR ID.
i. If you are submitting for a group, in my case for my family, MAKE SURE THAT YOU PROVIDE THE DOCUMENTS FOR EACH OF THEM. For example, if you have an invitation letter from India, photocopy this invitation letter and attach to each applicant.
STEP 2: SUBMITTING YOUR APPLICATION
j. BLS International accepts applications from 9:30am-12:30pm, Mondays thru Fridays, except holidays. Their website says until 1:30pm but they have a cut-off at 12:30pm. They will no longer accept applicants beyond that time. I advise going there as early as you can to get ahead of the line. I assume if you are the first one, the process won’t take you 30 minutes provided that you have all the documents ready. (Note: Bring all original documents with you, if possible.)
k. Sign the logbook at the table near the entrance. A clerk who will check your documents will call you in order of the logged applicants and will give you a number depending on the visa category you are applying for (e.g. Tourist #28) together with your documents. So it is important that you have filled up the forms properly so as not to slow down the process for the others. IF YOU HAVE MADE A MISTAKE IN YOUR APPLICATION FORM, CROSS IT OUT AND COUNTERSIGN.
l. With your corrected documents and PASSPORT, wait for your number to be called at the counter. Once your turn comes, the counter clerk will again check your documents and issue a receipt upon payment.
m. PROCESSING FEE FOR TOURIST VISA IS P2,100 PLUS A BLS INTERNATIONAL FEE OF P148. Only Peso currency will be accepted. Click here for information regarding other types of visa.
n. Together with the receipt, the clerk will return a stamped photocopy of your passport. Bring these when you claim back your passport.
o. Processing time for Philippine passport holders is 3 working days but they asked me to be back after 4 working days. I filed my application on Tuesday and I can claim in only on next Tuesday.
STEP 3: CLAIMING YOUR VISA
p. BLS International releases passports/visas from 4:30pm-5:30pm. This process is easier and there are fewer people. Sign the logbook and wait for your turn to be called.
q. Before leaving, make sure that your visa details are all correct.
OTHER IMPORTANT REMINDERS
r. MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE ALL YOUR REQUIREMENTS AS YOU DON’T WANT TO PAY FOR THE FOLLOWING AT THE AGENCY: Printing fee per page is P50. Receiving a fax per page is P40. Photocopying per page is P2.50. And you have to log on a sheet of paper every time you avail these services.
s. PLEASE REMOVE ANY PASSPORT COVER BEFORE YOU HAND IN YOUR APPLICATION. Taking off your passport cover at the counter takes a significant amount of time, seriously!
t. Bring anything to occupy you while waiting.
u. Bring a fan, it could get a little dense in there.
v. Bring food in case you get stuck. (I was so hungry at that time that I was already seeing my fellow applicants turning into fried chickens. Hahaha!)
w. Finally, please don’t make a scene. If you are in a hurry and pissed by the slow process, have patience. It is annoying for other applicants who try to be calm despite hunger, heat and lost time. Trust me, setting a rampage won’t help AT ALL. Just think that once you get your tourist visa, everything else in your travel will be incredible, like INDIA! :)
Safe travels and see you in India!
==================== Last updated: January 22, 2012
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