I have my tourist visa in hand.

Let me tell you about the best government transaction in the world.  The Indian government has outsourced its visa department.  Ironic isn’t it!  I do not know what prompted this decision, but it is the most efficient bureaucratic endeavor I have ever experienced.  Here’s how it works.

You first fill out a visa application online on the Indian embassy’s website.  It’s pretty standard: name, age, citizenship and Indian origins and purpose of your trip.

You are then assigned a confirmation number.  This takes about 15 minutes.

The next step is another online application through a private company called Travisa.  Starting with the confirmation number proving that you already informed the Indian government of your intention of visiting their country, you fill out once again a simple form, scan your picture, print the application and mail it, with your passport, real picture and a check.  That’s it.  All of this was done from the couch.  No office to drive to, no wait line, no customer service rep in a bad mood.  All I had to do was fill out forms and have a picture taken (which happens to be the most horrible picture of me ever.  I went to get my hair done a few days later!)

I sent my application on a Monday at 4:45 pm, and my passport with the visa was delivered back to my door on the following Monday.  7 days, you can’t beat that type of efficiency.  If you need your visa faster, you can go to their offices.

Outsourcing the government, who would have though!

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