Thursday, April 16, 2009

Coming to Live in India, the F.R.R.O. and Trying to Leave the Country

Funny thing. A fellow blogger asked me to confirm the address for the FRRO and I spent a half hour or so describing that exquisitely painful experience known as the FRRO. A few hours later, on an email list (Gurgaon Connection), a brilliant person had much better information for her, me (since I've trade shows to do in June), and everyone else who's trying to come in or go out requiring the services of the "lovely" officers at the F.R.R.O.

BTW, a joke...what does FRRO stand for? Next post, kids, or maybe check the comments. Enjoy...

Hi there,

It's Mathanaseelan here again. I had asked some of you about the procedures that needs to be done before leaving India for good. Now, here are my findings after running around for 2 years. I am safely in Malaysia now and thank you for the people who did send me a lot of good advice while I was there.

1) FRRO registration is needed if you are going to stay in India for more than 6 months, and you need to do it within your first 14 days in India.
1.1.1) Find out from the FRRO officer what is the correct Challan code to quote when you are making your payment.
1.1.2) Go to a local State Bank. Eg: In Hyderabad I had to go to the State Bank of Andhra to pay this.
1.1.3) There was a guy OUTSIDE the bank with the form. Pay him and tell him the "challan code" and he will fill it up beautifully for you, with all the nitty-gritty.
1.1.4) Queue, Make payment, and take Receipt to be shown to FRRO Officer. Ensure receipt quotes the correct "challan code" otherwise you just paid fine for something else. (This challan code experience was in Andhra Pradesh, it may differ in Haryana)
1.2) You're required to bring with you at registration:-
1.2.1) Pasport size photo (x 4 to be on the safe side)
1.2.2) Letter from organisation stating that you are staying in so-so address and that they are employing you for "X" duration to be in India and your passport and visa details in that same letter as well.
1.2.3) I think the Delhi FRRO actually have a template online how that letter is supposed to look like. I know i saw it somewhere.
1.2.4) Rent Agreement showing the proof of your address of stay in India. This has to be done on the Indian "legal" paper which you would have to buy and fill up the agreement and both parties sign on it. Verbal agreements and anything lesser than that "legal" agreement is unacceptable as Address proof.
1.2.5) Employment agreement showing the number of months you are going to be working with the company in India.
1.2.5) Go at 10am. Office opens 9am - 3pm. Lunch (1:30 - 2:30). The Gurgaon FRRO office main guy was late both times i went there.
1.2.6) The real FRRO Officer is actually the Deputy Commissioner of Police of Gurgaon who sits in a bigger office somewhere else in the building. The guys who we see in the office all report to him. If things get too late at the FRRO office in the morning and the DCP is not there, you'll be required to go again to the Mini Secretariat the next day to collect the signed FRRO Papers.
*Note: I might have missed something important here and please if there is something else to be here; add it in.
1.3) Location of FRRO Office Gurgaon is at the 3rd floor, Mini Secretariat. Travelling south on Nh8 (away from Delhi); turn right at Rajiv Chowk and you will see it on your left.

2) After registration, during your stay you need to have your FRRO papers with you wherever you go.
2.1) I think those who register in Delhi actually get it in a card form. So no point getting confused. Gurgaon-ites get it in 2 pieces of paper, stapled together, that is signed and stamped and has your picture.
2.2) The registration number is important and please note it down somewhere in your mobile so that even if you are caught without your papers, you can quote the number and they can check your registration with the Gurgaon FRRO officials.
2.3) Due to the important nature of those papers, I think keeping the originals and taking a photocopied set on your person is a safer option. After all, it's the Registration number which is importantly noted when you leave the country for short visits etc.

3) Leaving India after registration.
3.1) Leaving India within 6 months of your entry, either temporary or permanently, the Immigration officers couldn't be bothered less cause people staying less than 6 months don't need to register anyway.
3.2) Leaving India temporarily, after 6 months of arrival in India.
3.2.1) MUST have ORIGINAL FRRO form otherwise you'll be kicked out of the airport by immigration and your suitcases would be returned to you. Your ticket would be booked as a "No Show Passenger".
3.2.2) You can go to nearest airline counter within airport to re-confirm the tkt for some other date. Best is to do it then, cause if they ask any questions you can get the actual immigration officers who kicked you out to talk to them as well.
3.2.3) Make sure you tell them it's a visit and you intend to return to India and prove it by showing the return tickets. The immigration officer then checks your Registration number and HANDS YOU BACK THE ORIGINAL FRRO FORM.
3.2.4) If you don't have the return tickets booked, I think you just have to tell the guys nicely and they would listen and give the ORIGINAL FRRO FORM back to you anyway.
3.3) Leaving India for good, after 6 months of arrival in India.
3.3.1) MUST have ORIGINAL FRRO form otherwise you'll be kicked out of the airport by immigration and your suitcases would be returned to you. Your ticket would be booked as a "No Show Passenger".
3.3.2) You can go to nearest airline counter within airport to re-confirm the tkt for some other date. Best is to do it then, cause if they ask any questions you can get the actual immigration officers who kicked you out to talk to them as well.
3.3.3) In Hyderabad, you need to go BACK to the FRRO officer and get a clearance stamped on the FRRO form by him, stating he has no objections of you leaving the country. The FRRO guy in Gurgaon told me I just need to surrender the form at port of exit (in my case Chennai airport, since it was cheaper to stopover in Chennai before going to Malaysia) and I don't have to get any approvals from him before leaving.
3.3.4) For those who were EMPLOYED in India and leaving, there is another form that you need to be able to show to the immigration officers before you leave the country. You need to have completely filed your Income Tax with the Indian tax authorities, paid them, get your CA/company Finance or Accounts dept. to get you an Income Tax Clearance Certificate after the payment has been made completely. It's a simple document which is to be signed by the tax authorities of India stating I have paid everythign and they have no objections in me leaving the country.
3.3.5) The FRRO guy in Gurgaon told me to have the tax clearance certificate in hand to show the immigration officers before leaving. They just need to see it.
3.3.6) The Immigration officer at any airport would take and KEEP the FRRO form if you are permanently leaving India. They then send the collected FRRO form to the officer in Gurgaon, where he closes your registration I guess.

4) PAN Card. Please do not make the mistake I did. I joined a small company who asked me to get the PAN Card done myself. I had no idea how to do it, didn't take too much of an initiative to do it for almost a year. Bottomline: lazy.
4.2) Find an agent location near you and ensure you call and try out the numbers as some of them, I irritatedly realised, had cancelled their number so you cannot be sure if those agents are still operational in the given addresses. I finally found a man named Rajesh from Janakpuri among that list, who was kind enough to come to my house and do it for me.
4.2.1) You have to fill up the form they have.
4.2.2) You need to provide 2 photographs which is at a non-normal dimension. So, I did it in Khan Market where I told the guy how I wanted the dimensions to be and he adjusted it. (25mm x 35mm) [Editor's note: Yu Yu simply took my regular passport sized photo and cut it to size with scissors. Much less hassle.]
4.2.3) You need to provide a Proof of Identity and you need to provide a proof of address. Mr. Rajesh used my original bank account statement from ICICI as a proof of address and proof of identity. (The bank statement had my full name and my full address). Check the website for details of other documents that can be used.
4.2.4) There is a payment of some INR 160+. I cannot remember clearly. I just gave the dude INR 200 since he had travelled pretty far and met me in my home after work hours and I felt that was actually worth some tip.
4.3) Within 3-4 working days I got the PAN Card number SMSed to me and within 7-8 working days the PAN Card itself was couriered to me. It was actually that easy to do it personally.
4.4) I think it's easier if you actually work for a bigger company, they get it done for you because every month your salary slip should reflect the PAN No., to indicate where the tax deducted from salary is being deposited. This makes it easier then for you to get your Income Tax Clearance Certificate.
4.5) PAN No. is also used to send larger amounts of money home, exchange large amounts of Indian currency to your home currency, apply credit cards and open any type of account; it has your residence address and your picture, making it a proxy for an identification card.
4.6) As stupid as it may sound, the FRRO registration papers are not enough to be shown to Vodafone or any India based companies as an identity / residence proof. It had my address and picture as well but for some reason, they refused to accept it whenever I gave it to them. They looked at it and then they asked for an official govt. document. I showed them the stamp of the Deputy Police Commissioner of Gurgaon, but that just wasn't "government-ish" enough for them. Personally, I feel it's stupid to make us do a registration which just has to be surrendered at time of departure, in the meantime we cannot use that in our daily lives in India.

5) Bonus Chapter: Sending stuff through Air Cargo.
5.1) You need: Copy of Flight tickets, Copy of Visa, Copy of Front and back pages of Passport to be given to the Freight Forwarders.
5.2) If you can call people to your home and afford the trucking charges to the airport then do that. Otherwise. I booked a cab and sent the boxes to an agent myself.
5.3) I called MASKargo straight. They told me a rough estimate of their air frieght charges and told me I cannot do the customs clearance at India side myself. They recommended me to use Scorpio Freight in Janakpuri District Centre.
5.4) Not too sure about other airlines but basic MASKargo freight charges has a cut off at 100kg, as of now. Below taht is 75 rupees / KG. Above that is 65 rupees/KG. My boxes were 102KG in total, so I benefitted about INR 800. Therefore, whoever you talk to make sure you know their complete tariff plan to make better decisions.
5.5) The Scorpio Freight guy had everything itemised so I could be sure that there were no "hidden" charges so to speak.
5.6) When my goods arrvied in Malaysia 2 days ago, some agent caught whiff of this news and called us to say for RM 400 he can do all the paperwork and deliver it to our doorstep. Not sure if they actually have a tie up with MAS or was this just someone exploiting inside information.
5.7) A few hours later MASKargo themselves called and told us the Terminal Handling charges on their end is RM20 plus RM22.60 to buy the Customs Declaration form. If you include my petrol charges as RM50; I got my boxes back home in less than RM100. That and I had to go through the whole customs clearance process which was about 1.5 hours. Definitely better than paying 4 times more money to someone out to make a profit.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Followup Re: Book Sellers in Gurgaon

At last I have found the bookstore of my dreams. :-) Actually, Will found it at the Galleria Mall. It's called Quill and Canvas Bookstore and Artmart and it is situated on the ground floor.

We visited yesterday and I had my list of Indian writers with me and my attitude that I'll never find Steinbeck here in this country. Of course, they had everything, from Sufi poets, Heidegger, the Vikrams (Chandra & Seth), along with a number of American classics (even Steinbeck). The manager, a lovely well-read woman, was a little bit pushy in showing us books, but it came across as a love of reading, not so much to push a sale. It was obvious that she had read many of her wares and suggested excellent books based on our preferences.

She remembered Will from the week before and what he had bought then, and suggested more books of the same. I like that in a vendor. We will certainly be back, again and again and again.

Quill and Canvas
SG-082 Galleria
DLF City - Phase IV
Phone: 4050306 / 2574416


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What Does An Average Indian Earn?

Geoff asked me a question that became a very long comment, so I am turning it into another blog post...

Geoff said...
Medical care sounds pretty cheap, if somewhat sketchy. Maybe I should give up this rat race and pull a rickshaw in Delhi. I got a $75 copay just for an MRI!

What can I expect to earn per year as an ... average Indian?

Okay, first a disclaimer - these are my impressions and not any report based on the due diligence of statistical review.

The average pay is hard to quantify because so much money stays off the tax rolls. The range of pay for people working in multinational companies is a factor of at least 2 compared to Indian companies. Many people freelance and work more than one job if they can find it. Any money they can get in cash is under reported.

Rickshaw wallas and cab drivers pay a rental fee for the rickshaw/cab and keep everything they earn after expenses. In Kolkata, the daily rental for a cab was 500 rupees, plus petrol, etc. That's why a lot of them want to become chauffeurs - one client, much higher pay, especially if they speak English. In Kolkata, the cost (to me) for a car/driver was between 25K and 30K/month. Here, the average charge for the same service with a semi-English speaking driver seems to be around 40K and is typically closer to 60K in the expat world.

Domestic staff prefer to work for expats because they pay a LOT more. For example, a family of five living in the Salt Lake section of Kolkata paid their maid 500 rupees/month with no benefits to work seven days a week. My maid in Kolkata was paid 3,000 to run a household of two. She spoke only Bengali, worked six days a week and was provided with vacations. Here in Gurgaon, my English-speaking housekeeper makes 7,000 salary, 1,000/month for transportation, 2,500/quarter for uniforms, full medical and takes a week off every couple of months. She works six days/week, and hired two women to do floors, wash dishes and clothes. She pays for their salaries out of hers because she said there was too much work. Now she cooks and does the food shopping and supervises the other women. Previously, she worked for one family who paid her 16,000/month with all the accompanying benefits. She'll be heading to London to visit them in the summer. I hope she comes back.

The other thing is that a lot of folks have more than one income. Using my housekeeper as an example, I know for a fact that she works with another expat in the same building because we hired her together. We both pay half her salary, and split her benefits, so she makes a minimum of 16,000/month. I believe she also manages a few other households - at least one other...

Now, looking back at the internet companies I worked for here, linkers had a starting salary of 7,000/month. The security guard at the telecom tower I visited last week in Rajasthan makes 12,000/month. Management level pay is even wider ranging. I had two managers with the same backgrounds - one was paid 1.1 lakh/month (110,000 Rupees) and the other 40,000. No reason given. All I know is that one came from Bangalore and the other Kolkata. Both came from successful dotcoms. Their original salaries were just as inconsistent.

The lack of parity really caused a problem. This situation occurs frequently and HR groups don't have any concerns. Salary ranges for the same job, i.e., linking, spanned 7,000/month to 26,000/month in one company I worked for. Some staff shared with me their attitude of "why should I work hard when I know someone else is getting paid three times more and only brings in 6 links for the entire month? I bring in three times that and get paid a third of what he does." I couldn't have agreed more and couldn't respond adequately. I implemented incentive programs so that higher performing linkers could make more money just to reduce this problem and provide a way to increase overall performance. Only one of the staff actually earned any money, but it made him visible and provided him with access to jobs with more responsibility. The worst example of salary inconsistency was the two Spanish translators at one company I worked for. The woman was a full-time professional who had worked at the company for a couple of years before I joined. She was making 5,000/month for 50-hour work weeks. I hired a part-time Spanish student (still in college) and I found out later he was making 9,000/month for 9 hours work a week! I'm still shocked at this. I tried to fix the situation but my boss refused to allow me to even discuss salaries. When she quit to work in Bangalore, she never looked back. As soon as she got her offer letter, she left the same day...

So what is the average salary? Have no idea. Because there is still subsistence farming and itinerant workers (especially in construction), low end salaries are a few dollars a month. Executives are paid like they are everywhere - sometimes too much for what they contribute. (Not me!) Bottom end executives in Indian companies make at least Rupees 100,000/month (USD $2,000), typically much more. The range goes all the way up to standard American executive packages, translated into Rupees.

Teachers here have the same problem. If you speak English, your salary would be higher because you can teach in an English speaking school. There are local language schools, Hindi schools and English. There are also Embassy schools for other languages. Typical salaries for teaching staff in the International schools (from what I've heard) is between Rupees 10,000 and 30,000/month. I could be wrong - this is just hearsay.

As an expat, I can't think of my salary in American terms otherwise I would become very depressed. I make less than half what I made in the States, but it's a very good living for this country. Even so, my expenses are very high - after paying for rent, private school, chauffeur, housekeeper, restaurants, western foods, books, travel, satellite TV, broadband internet, air conditioning, etc., I'm broke by the end of the month. I pay a premium for my lifestyle. Having a zero balance in my bank account at the end of the month is a grave concern and something I need to address ASAP.

I hope that helps answer the question. :-)

Later, peeps.