Saturday, October 2, 2010

FRRO, Part 2

If you've ever wanted to experience pure, unbridled Indian bureaucracy, the FRRO (Foreigner Regional Registration Office) is probably about as close as most foreigners will ever come. It's a little like going to get your driver's license renewed, except it's paper-based, there's no official queue, no air-conditioning, and lots of people sitting around and/or literally sleeping on the job.

For a detailed and balanced account of everything required for an FRRO registration, check out this link from a Wall Street Journal affiliate. For slightly more disgruntled (yet equally accurate) accounts, you can find in nearly any expat's blog in India.

Based on our type of visa (Employment), we were first required to visit the FRRO within 14 days of entering the country. Since we only have a one-year visa that expires in December, it was time to start the renewal process. Fortunately, we have the help of immigration attorneys as part of our expat package so we literally just have to appear there in person, sign a couple things, and our handlers do the rest.

While it's nice to have the handlers, it certainly cuts down on the number of interesting things you can witness. In fact, I think the most startling thing I learned yesterday at the office was that both of our handlers were Mormons. Of all the religious diversity in this country, I have to admit these were the first Mormoms I had met. Upon doing a little research on the information superhighway, I learned that, as of mid-2009, there were 7,500 Mormons in India. While that's 7,500 more than I expected, it still seemed noteworthy.

My other impression of the experience was my general comfort level being at the office. In all honesty, the building in January seemed cold and intimidating, if not a little scary. After nearly nine months, it just seemed like another place to go and another errand to run (thanks to the handlers). Sure we were stared at while we walked the halls, but that tends to happen here from time to time.

While there are any number of (fairly obvious) ways the Indian government could make this an easier and more inviting process that gave a better initial impression of the country, they don't, which is entirely their choice and right. And until they do, all of us foreigners will just have to deal with it.

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