Wednesday, June 16, 2010

First Step: Obtain a Visa

Before embarking in this incredible experience a couple of procedural steps were necessary, among those was obtaining an employment visa to India.

Obtaining a visa to India is typically not problematic; however, it may be difficult if you are applying for an employment visa. The Indian embassy outsources the document collection procedure to a company, Travisa. The first step is to apply online by creating an account that will be active for seven days. The application must be filled out online, and to expedite the process it is better to specify that one will drop off the documents in person. Although it may be bothersome to make a trip to New York City to apply for a visa, it will be a worthwhile decision. I say this because as a resident of Maryland I applied through the Travisa’s DC. I made an appointment for early morning and tried to arrive 20 minutes before my appointment. I waited for an hour in the line, and came to learn that the appointment time was not important. Instead, it is better to arrive to the office as soon as it opens to avoid the long lines. The first time that I went to the office I was told to return the next day because I had not applied for the correct visa. The second time I went to the office I was also told that I did not have all the necessary documents. According to the DC office even if I was participating in an unpaid internship my ‘employer’ needed to provide a contract letter, and many other documents. Even after explaining that the program’s coordinator had called the embassy to verify that one letter explaining the nature of the internship would meet all the requirements, the employees in Travisa refused to accept my application. After many calls, and e-mails the best option was to present my documents in the New York City office.

At the beginning of the online application, the documents necessary to apply for an employment visa will be enlisted. For those students applying for an internship, only the following are necessary: a printed version of the online application, a valid passport, 2 passport-sized pictures, a proof of address (you should use your Cornell campus address), a birth certificate, and a letter from the organization where the internship will take place. The fee to apply for a visa is $133. If the documents are presented to the Travisa office before 11:00 AM, the visa will be ready that same day after 4:30 PM.

A brief note, for those students of naturalized citizenship status, there will be no delay in the process. This was one of my concerns when I applied for a visa in New York City because I was worried that I would have to remain in the city an additional day. The only reason a visa application is delayed until the next day is when the paper work is submitted after 11:00 AM. After many e-mails and trips, I obtained my visa a day prior to my trip. Thus far, my experience in Bangalore has been worth the long lines in the Travisa offices.


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