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Angela’s Indian Visa Shuffle in the USA: Tips on How To Apply and Avoid Delays via BLS International

bangalore-blog-bls-international-apply-for-indian-visa-in-usaI’m back to my roots in California for the first time in 10 years, and out of India for the first time since 2011, all for the sake of my Indian employment visa.  You see in India a foreign resident is not allowed to change employer and simply modify our paperwork within the country, we are required to exit the country to apply for and receive a ‘fresh visa’ in order to continue our stay in India.  The first time I changed employers in India I simply went back to Barcelona, Spain because I had been residing there for eight year and at that point in time I was still a legal resident but this time I’ve had to take the 26 hour journey back to Los Angeles to apply for my fresh visa.

My friend Sharell Cook who runs for India warned me before I left that there were problems in the U.S. (and other countries) and I should prepare for significant delays due to the recent change in the Indian visa outsourcing partner.  I booked my ticket so I had a comfortable 3 weeks back in the U.S. to ensure I had enough time to complete everything and so far, so good.

I had great luck and my visa was issued within the time shown on the BLS International website – the company who won the bid to handle visas for India.  I don’t have a single complaint and only have fantastic things to say about their service.  So when I read a discussion thread on Fodor’s that was just chock-a-block full of really negative comments about BLS and the not-so-stellar service that some people were experiencing, I decided to share my positive experience on that discussion thread … and that’s where the inspiration for this post started.  After I left my honest feedback about my experience, two people immediately attacked me and my comment and accused me of being either employed by BLS, lying about applying for my visa or a friend of the owner!

bangalore-blog-bls-international-apply-for-indian-visa-in-usaWhat the hell?  Anyway, the distrusting comments – addressed to me only because my experience was different than theirs – gave rise to this, a bit of advice on how to navigate the Indian visa application process and keep your cool in the event that everything doesn’t proceed as smoothly as it should.

{Note: Given the sceptical comments I received from a simple ‘update’ comment on Fodor’s I feel compelled to do something out of character and state clearly that I don’t know anyone at BLS and I have zero association or alliance to BLS and had never had any contact with them until my first call two days after they received my visa application! I live in India, am CEO of a social media company, and am writing this to shine a different light on BLS than what is portrayed online at the moment – because my experience has honestly been excellent.}

I’m not an expert, but this is the 4th time that I’ve applied for an Indian visa in the past two and a half years, and I’ve had a very positive experience with BLS, so here we go!  Here’s how things went for me, and a couple of tips:

  • Triple check your paperwork and follow the samples online.  Tourist visas are simple, but if you are going over for business, with an NGO, for a job, or anything that requires additional paperwork it is essential to send it right the first time to avoid delays.  There are samples of the various letters and the style required for documentation out there, so do follow them.  Make sure that Indian documents all contain the company stamp and initials/stamp on every page of every document needed.
  • Track your application online after you are sure it has been received by BLS.  Try each of the options for tracking online.  I applied by post (it was received on Monday) but the ‘track postal applications’ option did not work for me.  I had to use the ‘Click here to Track Applications submitted on and after 1st July’ and then only the ‘passport’ option worked to track it.
  • When you track your application, if it says ‘no record found’ and you are sure that it has been received by BLS, call them straight away!  I waited til Wednesday to do this and lost a day in the process.  The customer service representative who I spoke to apologised, took down all the information from my application needed to enter a ticket into the support system and told me my application would be in the system within 48 hours.
  • I became restless though and started Google’n around and found the email ID of a BLS employee on Fodor’s in a thread about Indian visas so I emailed him (this is the email ID I found, that was accompanied by a nice ‘sorry you are having problems, please email me and let us help’ message:  The text in my email was courteous and respectful (kindness and gracious behaviour goes VERY far with Indians, never underestimate the power of simply being humble and nice).  I shared my concern over the delay in processing my visa, and how that would going to impact my life.  I gave the facts of the situation, simply asking for help and advice on how to proceed. Within 10 minutes I received a call back from BLS with a promise that within 24 hours I would have an update.  The man who called seemed genuinely concerned and wanted to help. 
  • When I tracked my application on Thursday, my status had changed from ‘no record found’ to ‘in process at the consulate general’, which was a huge relief.
  • Thursday I also received a call from BLS telling me that because Friday was a holiday (it was Eid in India) and since the weekend are non-working days that I shouldn’t expect my visa to be processed until Monday or Tuesday.  It was very reassuring to have someone who seemed to care and who gave me a clear picture of what was happening.
  • Saturday: it turns out that BLS was wrong, though!  Looks like the Consulate was working on Friday – to help reduce the backlog of pending visas is my guess.  I’m writing this blog post on Saturday night and I just went to check the terminology on the BLS website in the tracking system for the article and I saw that my status was changed to ‘Dispatched via Courier’!  Woo hooo!  I logged into UPS and it turns out that my visa and passport have been en route now since Friday and will arrive on Monday morning by 10:30am.  Rock on!!  That means that when all is said and done that the process took one week, which is the timeframe they claim on their website.

When I spoke to the rep on Wednesday I commented that I really appreciated the call because my expectations for good customer service were low after reading so many negative comments on the Internet.  He admitted that things have been a challenge because they assumed the workload of each of the other visa processing companies, they are new, and that there were problems with the migration that were beyond their control.  I can totally relate to that, as can most people.  It happens with any business during a merger or acquisition … or when they are simply new.  But it is obviously terribly upsetting when a business affects the personal lives of so many people.

My advice is to 1) ensure your paperwork is 100% perfect, 2) call after the first day, and 3) gain a personal contact or an ally within the customer support team if possible.  BLS really seems to be trying hard to turn things around and improve their service.  They were always very kind and helpful on the phone.  I hope that you will have the same good luck with your visa application as I did.

XOXO Angela

Please NOTE: I wrote this post to share my experience and offer some tips. My blog is like my home and I really don’t want it being turned into a place for a stream of negativity.  Sadly, I’ve seen what happend on the other threads about visa processing, they turned into an outlet for people who are really frustrated by the visa application process to vent their anger.  I will be happy to approve constructive comments :-)

© 2013  Angela Carson.  All rights reserved.  Do not reproduce any part of this article without the author’s permission.

I started Angela's Bangalore from my hotel room on the very first day I moved to India in 2011, while struck with jet lag! It was my very first blog, the country's very 1st luxury travel blog, and I'm so proud that it has become a resource for locals, resident expats and travellers alike.

This article has 16 comments

  1. Melanie


    I had a very similar experience to you when getting my business visa approved by VFS in Vancouver, the entire process took less than 24 hours from start to finish. The office was tranquil, they asked me to fill out a customer satisfaction survey (which I gladly did) and when I arrived with imperfect visa pictures they even offered to retake them for me. Overall a wonderful “outsourced” experience.

    P.S. – it always irks me when people hide behind forums to vent their anger. For all you know those posting the horrible experiences about BLS could be their competition who lost the bid for the business and are now focused on revenge…..

    • AngelaCarson

      Hey Melanie, thanks for taking the time to comment :-)  I’m glad the process is smooth in Canada, too!  I did read that Canadians were experiencing similar problems to the Americans…  And yes, those comments ‘got my goat’ and essentially fueled my blog post :-)  Given that they speculated about me I’m not going to do it here but it always amazes me when people go to a ‘negative’ place as their go-to response to something good.  What a pity. –Angela

  2. Sharell Cook

    Great to hear about your legitimate positive experience (what a relief for you! :-) ), which I assume was from the San Fransisco office? Very encouraging indeed. From the comments on my post, it seems the worst problems are being experienced at the New York office…

    • AngelaCarson

      Yes, San Fran :-)  Was as speedy as my last experience in Spain, which is super!  I understand that people are upset about the service but I don’t think that most post realise just how FAST the Indian visa process is, especially for employment visas where someone like me is requesting to be a resident of the country.  In Europe, it often takes MONTHS for a foreigner to obtain a residency permit with the option to work (less time for residency without a work permit).  The first time I applied in Spain it took over 2 months.  The second time things were faster and it took only 4 or 5 weeks but still, India is a model of efficiency in this department :-)  And I know the process in the USA is quite complex and takes MONTHS, not sure how Australia is but I will find out next year prior to moving to Sydney in August 😉  Hugs to you! x

  3. ravi

    Hey Angela i can understand from where you are coming from and i had also been through all this procedure. but as a new service provider for visa and passport application in USA they taking a long time in doing every procedure. I applied for re issue of my passport and i mailed them lot of time but they replied me back after 48 and after daily follow up they tried there level best to resolve my query and finally what i got my passport back in 15 days.

    I know its very frustrating when you do all needful on time and u have to wait for ur passport more than the waited time. But staff is nice and polite and very professional as they apologize for the delay but i can understand from there prospective also that as a new service provider what they are going through also.

  4. Nora

    Hi Angela, I wanted to say that as someone who has participated in several online threads about these problems and the complaints people have, I am very sorry to hear you were attacked for posting your experience. I don’t recognize you from any of the threads I’ve been in, but I’ve seem people lash out at the BLS rep you mention above. And I myself have called out someone I thought was fake, though i hope not so mean-spiritedly and with better logic for why besides their experience being different than mine.

    Thank you for taking the time to fully post your experience. We need more exact descriptions right now to better get good information fast and inform our own actions. It took us far too long to get through all the complaints and pull the relevant info from that. I wish your post had been available when we were doing that research.

    I’m glad you had a positive experience and a quick turn around, and for what it’s worth, ours was also quite positive – if a bit inconvenient for us. We found that the people at the office we went to – NY – were very polite and nice, and while the place wasn’t what I would call “organized” it also wasn’t the sheer chaos we expected from others’ posts. Apparently a few days before we arrived the NYC Police had paid a visit, so that might have something to do with it, but that is also hearsay so who knows.

    From what I’ve been reading, the office that’s in the worst state at the moment is Chicago. NY was starting to do better at least a full week before we got there – a gentleman from India Mike Forums posted his experience in the big thread for others to read and get relevant info from and he was processing with the NY Mission.

    Anyway, thank you again for your experience. =)

  5. Rikki Endsley

    Thanks for sharing your story. My teenager was supposed to go to India on a Rotary student exchange in July, but we’ve been waiting for ~6 weeks for her visa and still no signs of it. We’ve never been able to get a human on the phone when we’ve called and NONE of my email inquiries have received a reply. The Rotary Club travel agent isn’t having any luck, either. I tried the email address you listed in this post and will hope for better luck. I’ve also contacted our state (Kansas) representatives (a couple of weeks ago and still no replies). My daughter worked hard (even graduated 2 years early) to have the chance to study in India, so this visa hurdle has been incredibly frust
    rating and disappointing.

    • AngelaCarson

      I’m sure Rattan will monitor this post, I have corresponded with them a few times now so perhaps forward your last mail to BLS and this time in the subject line of your email write “referred by Angela Carson” and see if that helps. Best of luck to you!

  6. Ajan (@The_Ajan)

    I reckon you should add more tags to this post, it would help many.

  7. s0nali

    Thanks for this post. It will be useful. I have had such great luck with Travisa and never had to “manage up” in the ways you are suggesting here and it’s a shame it is a requirement to do so with BLS instead of them just doing their jobs properly like Travisa did but I will follow your advice in the future.

  8. Richa

    Angela, you are perhaps one of the luckiest to get your Visa so fast. I wish many of us were in your boat. For me, it has been quite a frustrating experience so far dealing with BLS. Having sent my (OCI) visa application to the DC office more than a month ago and called 50+ times since then, I just get the call center to open cases with the promises to provide an update within 48 hrs that never seem to pass.

    The website tracking has been showing – no record found.

    Not to mention that the first application bounced back with a simple message – wrong application form, and we had to resend the application, which didn’t bounce back. I hope that BLS hasn’t lost my application package.

    I do appreciate your post and suggestions. I will send an email to the person you referenced and hope for the miracle (before canceling my planned/booked trip to India in late Oct).

  9. Melissa

    I am glad you had a good experience. I am only applying for a tourist visa and Travisa was very good and never had any problems. I have been little nervous about BLS, and the postal tracking number said that they received my package yesterday at 11 am. Today I tried to see if my visa was not being worked on and like everyone else, I am getting no record found. I did call them up on the 800 number and the guy told me it would be 24 to 48 hours and I should see my visa application being worked on. I hope this is true. I plan on visiting my fiancé for Dewali and planned on leaving Oct 30. I guess I will keep on bugging them if that is the case.

  10. Amy

    I am considering taking a position with my company for a year or two based in Bangalore. I have enjoyed reading your blog (for 2 hours so far) and am glad to hear that the visa process can be easy.
    I’ve heard of challenges being a female in a leadership position and wanted to get your take on it. If you have a minute.

  11. milan madhani

    Angela, your expericence is the exception. From my experience, BLS is a pretty bad company. They don’t answer their phone numbers, nor do they process the visas & passports in time. Travisa, although always not super great, was 1000x BETTER in every way than BLS. What a bunch of B.S!!! {edited by Angela to remove names of BLS executives and other info unrelated to obtaining a visa or the respondent’s experience}

  12. Selva

    Hi Angela,

    Reading so much negativity about BLS on so many threads its nice to see this blog. After going through all those horror stories I was petrified when last Saturday (Oct 18) I went to the BLS office in Toronto for a tourist visa. Luckily I had a very good experience both at their office and later at home tracking the application.

    It was busy, but 5 counters were operational for visa and took about 1 hour for my turn to come. There were about 20 numbers before me. I am meticulous about filling applications and following instructions and such so had no issues with the application. The agent was polite and professional though a bit slow. Getting back home I started tracking the application from the same evening: “In transit ..” on Saturday(19th), “processing at the consulate general” on Monday(21), “In transit to BLS” this morning (24th) and “ready for collection” later this afternoon! I am pretty impressed both by the consulate and BLS. Haven’t collected the visa yet, though.

    I can’t say anything about postal applications which is what most people are complaining about, but my in-person experience was as good or better than the previous agency here (VFS). I must say one thing though: all of their agents are pretty slow in checking applications — though methodical as they should be. I spent 8 minutes at the counter. With a single visa application, nothing missing, no errors or omissions that is slow. If BLS has to make make any profit and stay in business they have to learn to scan through it quicker.

    Good luck to all applicants.


  13. Kathleen

    Hi Angela,
    I also just wanted to chime in with my positive experience. I left Bangalore in June and my employment visa expired in Sept. I recently married an Indian man and had to apply for a spouse visa (X visa) with BLS so I could travel for Diwali. My experience with the New York office in August was the same. I used fedex and it took 10 days from start to finish (due to the India independence day holiday I think there was a little delay). I also called in after having no record found on the website and they called me back the next day to say my application was at the Consulate and from there on out it was updated appropriately on the website!

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