How to apply for an Indian volunteering visa

Okay first up this is a slightly misleading title because…dun dun dun….. there is no Indian volunteering visa. I know! Weird right? And not to say just a little confusing. I named this post this because I assumed there would be such a thing as a volunteering visa and the whole process was very confusing. I’m hoping this post might help people out a little.

So you want to go to India and volunteer? Kudos. Well done you.  It’s great to do voluntary work. I myself am going to be volunteering in a school in Bangalore. You may imagine that you can just rock up on a tourist visa and do some volunteering on the side. No. No, you can’t.

Sorry folks but if you want to do voluntary work in India (even for a short period like a week) then you need to apply for an Employment Visa. This is a fairly recent change to the visa rules (apparently). It’s a bit of a longer process and requires more foreplanning.

All the following advice is based on applying for an Employment Visa from the U.K. as a U.K. resident. I’m sure there are lots of crossovers though.

First off you need to check out VFS Global. This is who you will apply for your visa through and they have lots of useful information on their website about all kinds of Indian visas. They also have offices all over the world so if you’re not in the U.K. google for them and find your nearest office.

Things you will need to submit for your application:

  • One completed and printed application form
  • Your passport with validity to cover the period you want to spend in India and at least one page free for the visa stamp
  • Two 50 x 50 mm (2 x 2 inch) photos of your head face (unsmiling)
  • The fee
  • Photocopies of your qualifications
  • A letter from the company in India you’ll be volunteering with inviting you to volunteer with them. This must be signed and stamped but a scanned copy is fine.
  • A copy of the registration certificate of the company in India

If you’re not a U.K. citizen but have lived there for more than two years you also need to submit proof you’ve been living here. Bank statements or copies of leases should work. If you’ve lived in the U.K. for less than two years then things get more messy and complicated.

You submit all these things then they get processed by the Embassy/Consulate and then you should hopefully have your visa within two weeks.

I got my visa after one week of the original submission.

Don’t forget – the visa is valid from the day it’s approved so don’t apply for it too far ahead of your departure date as this may scupper your later plans.