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.


  1. OY -

    BTW, thanks for that email, J. It was wonderful and I've forwarded it to Todd for his perusal before tackling that fun job of registering at the FRRO.

    THIS post is wonderful too! I'm going to have quite the binder of information for when we arrive.


  2. Carry 3-5 copies of your passport with the front page, ID photo page, visas, stamps etc. whenever you travel to a developing country.
    Carry a bundle of passport photo of "stamp size" or "passport size" you'll need it for everything. If you don't have "stamp size" cut it down. :-)
    DON'T leave it up to your office/employer to do your FRRO stuff. Chances are they have no clue what to do. And your case will just get stuck with middlemen. FRRO officials also frown upon this practice. In Calcutta, West Bengal, there are two jurisdictions. Calcutta proper, where you have to go to the AJC Bose Road FRRO office or if you live outside of "Calcutta" i.e. Beyond Jadavpur, or Salt Lake, you have to go to the Alipore FRRO, which is in Bhavani Bhavan -- near the court houses.
    Most foreigners head to the AJC Bose Road office, usually they don't say anything, taking you as a "stupid foreigner" and do the paperwork for you. West Bengal FRRO offices have pretty good people who speak English and somewhat friendly. If you have to go to the Alipore FRRO go at exactly 2pm on a weekday not before, not after so you can be in and out in less than 2 minutes. :-) Make sure you have 2-3 copies of your rent agreement, offer letter etc. etc.

    If you're leaving permenantly:
    On Student Visa, or Employment Visa, at least in WB you have to inform the FRRO a week in advance (they'll stamp your permit with the date) You have to surrender your permit at the airport at the immigration counter. Don't be surprised if they don't want you to go and ask, "Are you sure you're leaving permanently?" ^_^!

    Tourist visa is NON EXTENDABLE inside the country.

    The reason why the telecom people won't honor the FRRO permit as an official "government" document is because it's not on stamped paper.

    Tip: If your passport has a field to write in for your local address, write your address in with a heavy pencil. Don't press hard if you're traveling a lot since you might have to change it again. Photocopy that, and voila! you have a resident proof, because it's in an "official document" such as the passport, they won't question it. Note that this only work when applying for SIM cards at certain places.

    Oh, you'll have to sign the photocopies.

    Make sure you carry a black pen and a blue pen AT ALL TIMES. PAN card registration is done with a black pen. Checks are preferably signed with a black pen. If you meet visa officers like my dad, they'll give you a specific pen to sign with. :-)

  3. Kathleen FirlikMay 5, 2009 at 8:00 PM

    Hi! So i have accepted an offer and will be moving to Pune! I would love to hear more about how you shipped/moved stuff from the US and what is the most cost effective way to do it. We won't be bringing much but there are a few things that I want to bring

  4. The easiest thing I realised after I moved to India last year with my non-Indian husband (and we had to go through the whole rigmarole of frro and pan cards,gas connections internet,apartments etc which was so easy abroad)was just to get it done by someone else,which is luckily possible in this country.Have now opened up my own little business doing all this for other people,a bit like relocation with a pinch of masala!I was taken aback by how many people were flowing into Delhi and how few of those had any idea about how to settle here so the gap is getting filled by people like me,so my advice is dont panic-just get someone to do the dirty work for you.Its cheap and cheerful and you'll live longer!

  5. The FRO was one of the most miserable experiences of my life to date. I spent four whole days there, shuttling back and forth, scrapping documents and printing/acquiring new ones as the FRO officials alternately chastised me for providing the wrong ones and then changed their minds as soon as I showed up the next morning with the ones they had requested. It's completely arbitrary, especially if they decide they don't like you, and they can waste whole weeks of your life. I saw the same people in there, day after day, begging, shouting and cajoling the officials to convince them to let them do something other than stand in line and shuffle paperwork. It's absolutely ridiculous, and, although this will never happen, the government should streamline/eliminate the FRO. Its sole purpose is to bully expats.

  6. Hi Guys if you need any assistance at the FRRO, Hyderabad,Pune,Mumbai or Bhubaneshwar in regards to your in-country registration upon your arrival and visa extensions then kindly contact me @ +91 9849306795. I have good contact with the Senior officials @ the FRRO's and your work will be done smoothly.

  7. i'm going now to HYD FRRO :(
    i want to cry :'((((((((((((((((((
    god be with me >_<