Category Archives: Bureaucracy

FRO – Part 3: When Frustrating Is An Understatement

Sidd and me have been hanging out so much at the FRO (Foreigners Registration Office) lately that we could become regulars. And maybe we would want to, if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s a bureaucratic sinkhole filled with dying souls and broken dreams.

You might remember my previous encounters with the FRO (Part 1, Part 2), the place where I was supposed to register as a foreigner within the first two weeks after arrival. Well, it’s day 114 now and we haven’t even started yet.

It’s absurd. You hear jokes about bureaucratic machineries where booth 2A tells you to stamp forms A and B at booth 3C before proceeding down to booth 1C for a Certificate of Approval, which is needed by 2A before handling the forms required by 3C to even consider doing anything at all. That’s not far from the truth here. Except that the places where I should go to have these things handled are located all around the city, and with occasionally very limited opening hours. I could go into details but it’s a mix of boring, hilarious and infuriating – and not good for blood pressure for anyone involved.

The funny thing? No-one knows how this thing works, what the big picture is. Every clerk can just say “you’re lacking a stamp here and a defined date here” and it’s up to you, the foreigner, to figure out where to get that stamp – provided you even have the correct document.

If Columbo took this case he wouldn’t be able to crack it even with his famous last question. Hand this over to doctor House and he’d unexpectedly arrive at the conclusion that it’s in fact lupus – and still be wrong. You know Watson, the new supercomputer that can play Jeopardy? Ask it “how do I get my C Form approved?” and it would probably bluescreen itself into oblivion.

No, but seriously, this was the fifth time I was to the FRO and it’s such a waste of time and energy. Saying it’s frustrating would be an understatement.

I have more, but for the sake of protecting myself from any even remotely possible repercussions in later proceedings I’ll keep it to myself. For now.

Modom Box 1×1

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What is this I don’t even…

So we’re still trying to get broadband to the towers. Having concluded that the 4g modem doesn’t get a signal strong enough to sustain a good connection, our remaining option is to get it via wire. This requires the permission from the housing society, but as we found out today they haven’t elected a chairman yet so there’s no-one that can give us permission to get the connection.

Meanwhile, lacking access to memes and funny animal videos, we amuse ourselves with reading the associated documentation, like the one above.

Also, I’m considering switching to “Thanking you anticipation of your permission for the same” as the sign off in my e-mails.

FRO – Part 2: The Notorious C-Form

Armed with a formidable artillery of paperwork I entered the somewhat unwelcoming gate of the FRO. There again sat a few guards, ready to receive me with no interest whatsoever. The first one started to go through my backpack. By the time he had gotten down to a separated camera lens, he had to inquire from his colleague if it was ok or not. The colleague replied, unsurprisingly, that not only was the lens not ok since photographing was prohibited, but also that it didn’t even matter because the whole backpack was, indeed, not ok.

No worries, I was prepared for this, picked out the plastic folder with all paperwork and handed the backpack to Bhushan, who had helpfully agreed to come along. A signature and two metal detectors later I was back in the disorderly office of the FRO. I gravitated towards the info desk and waited calmly until the man behind it agreed to acknowledge my existence. I presented my case and got directed to cubicle number 2, after which – if everything was ok and stamped – I should proceed to clerks at booths 4 or 5.

You might have figured this out already, but I never made it to booths 4 or 5. My tactic was to spam them with all kinds of documentation and paperwork, most of it necessary but not all, that in it’s volume alone would be so convincing that a closer inspection was not necessary. But the man in the cubicle wasn’t having it, he’d seen too much of this to let it pass.

What my application was still lacking was the verification certification (see list of necessary documents in FRO – Part 1), which I can get in exchange for a stamped C-form. I had the C-form, but that wasn’t good enough. It has to be handed in to the local police station, in Baner. Actually Baner doesn’t have a local police station, so I don’t even know which one I should go to.

Anyways, that doesn’t even matter, because here’s the kicker: I can’t do it. It has to be submitted by the landlord of the premises where I’m staying. And it has to be done within 24 hours of my arrival, but we’re way past that so let’s forget about that.

So now I have to wait for the landlord to do some paperwork on my behalf. Once I have that, I can get the verification of residence, which I need stamped somewhere else before including it in my growing arsenal of bureaucratic armament.

On the other hand, what I heard from the other expats who have been doing a few rounds at that same circus, you can be rejected even because of the tiniest of details, so I’m not really keeping my hopes up of ever passing. Let’s see if I can get it done before I should apply for an exit visa – since it has to be done at the same office, and it might raise some interesting questions if I haven’t registered by then. Better bring some money for tea, if you know what I mean.

FRO – Part 1: You Shall Not Pass

All foreigners who come here on an employment or business visa need to register at the Foreign Registration Office. This should be done within 14 days of arrival, so it was time for me to do so as well. Sajjads visit to the bank, however, gave me a gut feeling that this wasn’t going to be too simple.

The FRO is physically in the local police station. The tiny gate in the high wall had a surprisingly strict “Foreigners only”-sign above it. The courtyard inside had a desk, and behind it a guard who didn’t seem too happy about his work. He expressed, in no unclear terms, that my backpack was not going inside. I told him it’s full of documents that I’m going to need to present to the FRO. His response was that only the necessary documentation is allowed inside.

Now, I admit I can sometimes sound like a smartass, but this time I wasn’t even trying, when I asked: do you have a list of the necessary documentation? I was genuinely interested, because I didn’t know what I need to present inside. I even had a copy of our rental contract with me if they needed to know I was actually living somewhere.

The guard wasn’t too happy about my query, told me angrily to take whatever documentation I had in the file – and to watch my language. The backpack I gave to Sajjad, who was waiting by the gate.

The bustle inside was pretty much as chaotic as you would expect a local government office to be, packed with foreigners trying to get their papers done so they can get the hell out, and clerks not too interested in much at all.

My visit, however, was a very short one. Apparently I have not kept myself sufficiently informed, since the procedure I have yet to follow is the following:

  • fill out the online form (but you have to find it first)
  • take a new set of passport photos (these won’t do since the background is not light)
  • scan all the necessary documents to PDF (you need to figure out what the necessary documents are first)
  • complete the form, along with uploading the PDF:s and a scan of the photo
  • arrange a meeting with the FRO
  • get a verification certification from the Police Station (I have no idea what this is or which forms I need to fill out to get it from wherever, whenever)
  • go to the FRO at the agreed time, along with the printed out application form, passport photos, verification certification and any other documentation you see might be relevant to whatever you’re trying to do

So I walked out, and as I was exiting the gate, I gave the guard a slight smile.

Now I have some serious paperwork to do.

Access Granted

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After the “4 day processing time” which turned out to be three weeks I finally got my visa. So it’s all good now?

Nope.

My work contract is from October 1 to March 31 – exactly six months. Business / employment visas can be issued for a maximum of six months, so it was not a coincidence that I put down the same dates on my visa application. They should fit together quite nicely. Right?

Wrong.

For some reason, which – despite several efforts of communication – is still unclear to me, they decided to put September 18 as the starting date. An odd choice, considering that the earliest date that I was allowed to pick up the visa was the 26th. Which means the visa ends two weeks before my work contract does. After more questions it became clear that it was essentially impossible for me to get a six month visa that would perfectly overlap the working period.

But I can apply for an extension to the visa during my stay there, right? I asked. The clerk, a mellow Indian man, smiled and said in a delightfully cheery, accented voice “You can try”, almost as if he’s cracking a joke. Maybe he was.

I could do little more than smile and say ok, I guess I’ll have to go with what I got, and since this is what I have then it’ll have to do. At least it’ll get me into the country. He smiled back as I turned and left the embassy.