The dreaded foreigner registration process in India…

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Every foreigner who is expected to be in India for more than 180 days is required to register with the Bureau of Immigration within 14 days of landing. Depending on your country, it may be different (ie Pakistan and Afghanistan), but I am writing from the context of what most westerners can expect. To register you have to visit a Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO). If you are far from one, then you can get the same service at a local police station.

This ramp goes into the building once you are approved. To the right is the green area where the giant line usually is.

Anyway, the first step, I learned is to register online. You need to visit the website and fill out the form (write down your application ID as you may get logged out!). Pretty straight forward. However, then you have to upload documents such as your passport and visa, proof of residence, a photo, employment contract etc etc depending on whether you are visiting on a medical visa, employment visa, student visa etc. This part was a bit of a nightmare as the size allotted per each document is tiny so you have to scan your documents, shrink them down, make sure they are pdf only, and then upload them. It was a bit of a hassle. However, still straight forward. The final screen gave me an appointment for a few days later and told me to print the forms and bring copies of all the uploaded originals to my appointment.

Appointment day comes and I make my way to the Delhi FRRO. It is May and scorching hot and I am not happy to see a giant line outside under a structure that looked like a small airplane hangar-a green one that created a weird green atmosphere inside. On each side of the line are rows of chairs that are jammed pack. Were all these people given appointments, I wonder? On the right side a sign says Afghan Nationals Only. This line was small but the chairs were full of Afghani people waiting. I am guessing most of these poor people are refugees. The other line was for everyone else-and was huge. I got in it. Luckily giant fans were blowing at us but it was still hot. The line probably would have moved okay if it were not for people butting in with the two registration agents and asking questions or demanding service. So annoying and I gave one American woman who jumped in right ahead of me a glare and she apologized saying it was for her mother in law who was too old to come herself.

Anyway, my turn came and they took my passport, had me sign in, and check if my paperwork was there (just a glance). I was then given a number-37-and told to go inside. I was happy to get into some a/c. I walked into the room and they were serving number 8. I sat down on one of the grimy orange chairs and waited. All sorts of people were waiting-from China, Japan, the US, the UK, Bangladesh, Korea, Nigeria, and France etc. The room soon grew full and it was getting hot. I brought a little fan with me that helped but should have brought water. The numbers moved very slowly and the staff kept helping other random people that went to the counter. This is not cool and defeats the purpose of numbers. I brought a book and read it for awhile.

Finally my number was called. The officer or whatever his title was went through my paperwork and was very kind and friendly but said it would not suffice as my office and paperwork came from North America and it must come locally. He said I would need my local authority (HR or a boss) to write a letter. I said it was impossible as the rest of my office was abroad and I was the highest ranking person in the region. He said an Indian national from the company must write the letter. I said there were only my staff who did not have such authority. He agreed but also agreed to accept such a letter from them if I was telling the truth. So, I was then given a piece of paper and told the FRRO would be checking in on me to confirm where I lived and if I was the highest authority around-and if so, would accept a letter from my staff. I took the paper and departed. It was not all that bad other than the hot waiting room and the numbers moving slow.

The very next morning I got a call from the FRRO letting me know they would come to visit me at home. I waited about the house for a few hours and then they told me they are coming to my office instead and I should go there at once. I did. At the office they took a print out of the new letters that I had my admin assistant prepare and sign on local letterhead. I asked if it was all done now and if they still wanted to come to my house. No, they said, and yes it would be filed later that day and next week I should return to the FRRO office to finalize the process.

The next week, after waiting a few days, off I go. This time the line was not bad and I was not given a number but told to do to counter A. I went. They took my paper and told me to sit. I sat only 10 minutes and was called. Shocking! Well, it turned out my file was not ready. They said this time they would call me and, when they did, then I can make the journey out to see them again. I agreed and off I went. I am hoping the final steps, whatever they are, will be easy enough. But, you never know in India!

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