Category Archives: Indian Visas

India Trip Preparation: Indian Visas & PIO Card – Check!

Our India trip planning is in full swing!  I think planning and looking forward to a big trip is half the fun!  Although, everyone knows nothing ever goes according to plan… Interestingly enough, we have had several friends and family interested in coming along with us to India.  At this point it looks like my parents and aunt will be joining us for part of the trip (they won’t be able to stay as long as we will).  So one things that is of utmost importance is for everyone to secure a visa to enter India.

As I mentioned earlier, we applied for a PIO (Person of Indian Origin) Card for our baby, Miss A. When we got it back in the mail, I was surprised that it wasn’t a card or even stamped in her passport like a visa – but it looks just like a mini passport.  The cover is a lighter color than regular Indian passports, and there are only a few pages inside, but it looks just like a passport.  It is valid for 15 years. I’m sure she’ll just LOVE the cute little baby photo when she’s….oh, say 13 years old!

I am also planning to apply for my PIO card (I’m eligible since my husband is an Indian citizen).  My current visa expires this year, so I may as well go ahead and get the PIO before they decide to change the rules or something!  It is more expensive than a regular tourist visa, but because there is a chance we will move back to India at some point, it makes sense for me to go ahead and get it now.  Check out this post if you are interested in learning more about PIO cards.

My family applied for 10 year tourist visas – they decided they might want to come to India again in the next 10 years (they’ve already been once before – but just had 6 month visas at that time).  We learned the hard way don’t take for granted that you will get the visa duration that you apply for – my aunt and mom got 10 year visas, but my dad was only give a 6 month visa.  You never know what you will get.  Its too bad he will have to go through the whole application process again for the next trip.

Next step… buy tickets!  We’re hoping to splurge a little and have a fun layover for a few days somewhere in Europe on the way back.  We’re thinking Paris – can anyone say “Oh-la-la?”

Passport Applications

You know you’re in an international family when…..
Your daughter isn’t even born yet and you have already printed out applications for her passport and Indian P.I.O. Card (Person of Indian Origin).
I know, probably a bit OCD, but I hate the idea of not having her passport and Indian visa in hand as soon as possible. You see, two years ago, my father-in-law suddenly passed away in India, and we had to leave at the drop of a hat. Only problem? After being married at that time for 2+ years, I had finally decided to mail off my passport to get my name changed. So we got the call on a Friday night, and needed to leave on a Sunday morning in order to get to India in time for the funeral. We hadn’t checked the mail yet that day, so we rushed to the mailbox, only to find it empty. The passport had to come the next day, or I was staying home – and I really couldn’t bear the thought of sending my husband alone in that state of shock!
Want to know the coolest part of the story? A couple of weeks earlier, when we had finally quit procrastinating and decided to send off my passport application to get my name changed – something prompted me to ask my husband if we should pay the rush fee to get my passport back sooner. Honestly, other than living near the Canadian border, there was no logical reason I needed my passport. But he quickly agreed that we should pay the extra money and rush it back.
After we got the news that Friday night, I tried calling to check on the status – or at least find out the wait times… all to no avail. So, the next morning, we got to the post office at 8 am – the time when they leave to start delivering mail. We happened to catch someone near the back door and after some begging, managed to convince her to check for us – I was never so relieved in my life, than when she came back out of the post office holding that envelope with my new passport inside. What a relief! We have to admit that it was God’s hand that not only, made us send off that application and put the rush fee on it, but also got it back to us at the last possible minute.
So needless to say, I am very convinced that I need to apply for the baby’s passport without delay. (although at this point, I’m not planning to pay the rush fees!) Once her passport is in hand, we’ll send off for her P.I.O. Card. I was actually confused whether or not she would be eligible for an O.C.I. Card (Overseas Citizen of India). So I emailed the consulate – they were very helpful and replied almost immediately. It turns out that unless my husband becomes a US Citizen and he himself has an O.C.I. Card, she cannot apply until she reaches the age of 18. Good to know! If you’re not sure on the ins and outs of P.I.O. vs. O.C.I. Cards, check my earlier post, or this link.

Murphy’s Law: Greencard Interview

By the time my husband got his green-card in the mail, we were so sick and tired of visa & immigration forms and paperwork to fill out! I never wanted to see another form as long as I lived! The average American has no idea of all the time and effort that is involved in getting a green-card for a foreign spouse. All we wanted was to be able to live and work in the same country! So we were subjected to form after form and month after month of waiting.
It all culminated with the final interview at the US Customs and Immigration Services Office. We had to both be present, at a given time, on a specific date, and we were sent a list of things to bring with us to the interview to prove that we were indeed married (and not just a marriage of convenience!).
I had carefully gone through the entire checklist and packed a cute little bag with anything and everything that I could find. I put in bills (to prove we lived together), letters addressed to both of us, copies of our marriage license, copies of our birth certificates, and passports, and dozens of other documents that we just might need!
We left quite early for our interview, since we had to drive approximately 2 hours to reach the office. I grabbed the bag of goodies and we were off. We were both slightly nervous, for no reason other than the slight chance that they would deny our application. Our case was pretty cut-and-dry, but you never know!
About one hour into our drive, I started going through the documents and putting them in order. Then I suddenly realized – we had left our photo album at home! How in the world I missed that, I have no idea! I had specifically printed out photos that documented our entire relationship. That is one of the top things that they recommend that you bring to the interview! My husband was ready just to forget the album, but I was bound and determined that we would be denied if we didn’t have it. So…you guessed it, we had to turn around and go all the way back home!
My husband wasn’t too happy – to say the least! We ended up still making it on time to our interview. So we got inside, and the woman asked us some questions like, How did you meet?, How long have you been married?, What common interests do you have?, and other similar questions. Then she asked to see our proof that we were married. She listed off several specific documents. But she made no mention of photos! So I very enthusiastically offered to show her the album that I had painstakingly put together (I didn’t mention that we had driven 2 hours out of our way to retrieve from our couch!). She could not have been more disinterested! She made some kind of response that I couldn’t make out, so I tried again… Would you like to see any photos for proof?
She politely but firmly turned me down again! By this time I was quite offended, but I tried not to show it. She went and made copies of our forms and then it was over, within 10 minutes, all the worrying, planning and agony was over. My husband got his green-card!
The whole drive home, while I was happy about the green-card, I was still bitter about the photos, and all my husband could do was laugh at me. I pointed out to him, I was quite sure that if we had NOT gone home to get the photos, that is exactly what she would have demanded to see first!
Somewhere Murphy must be laughing….

Making Sense of Indian Visas for Spouses of Indians

PIO & OCI Cards

Did you know as a spouse or child of an Indian Citizen you are entitled to apply for a PIO card to visit India? PIO stands for Person of Indian Origin. You might be asking, “Why would I want to apply for such a card?” Well, there are multiple benefits. Firstly, you pay a fee of $365 for adults or $185 for children and you receive a 15-year card. If you are living in India with your spouse, you are able to legally work with a PIO card. Your children are able to study in India without any further student permits – hey medical school must be a lot cheaper in India, right?

If your children have one Indian parent, or if your Indian spouse has recently become a US citizen, they are eligible to apply for an OCI Card. OK, I know the acronyms are getting a little confusing, but OCI stands for Overseas Citizen of India. Basically it’s a step higher than PIO cards, and closer to Dual Citizenship (although India does not currently permit dual citizenship.) The fee is just $275 for US citizens, or $25 if you already are a US citizen PIO Card holder. The main benefit of this card is it’s good for life. You don’t ever need another visa to visit India! As an OCI, you can live, work and study in India, and you never have to register with authorities (as a PIO you have to register for stays longer than 180 days). There are many other benefits and pros and cons for both the PIO and OCI cards.

I plan to apply for the PIO card before our next trip to India (my current visa is still valid for a few more years, but I’d like to go ahead and secure my card). We will definitely apply for the OCI cards for our kids too!

Some good resources for more information: