Monday, December 9, 2013

Dealing with the New Online FRRO Renewal Process

Blurg. You do know what the FRRO stands for right? Supposedly it stands for the Foreigner's Regional Registration Office, but we foreigners call it either the Foreigners' Rectal Reaming Office or simply just the Seventh Circle of Hell.

Every time you need to renew your visa and residency permits, it seems the rules have changed. This one seems like a pretty big change because now you can supposedly do the entire process online, schedule your appointment and show up at the appointed time and get your paperwork done.

Really. But in reality, absolutely not.

The web site to use is: http://www.indianfrro.gov.in/frro/menufrrodoc.jsp

In Pune, you need to file your renewal request at least 15 days prior to your visa expiration. In Kolkata and Gurgaon, it was 60 days prior (and it still took 8 months after expiration for the Gurgaon FRRO to finally issue my full year visa). In Delhi, I believe we had 30 days to renew... not sure, though.

The application is pretty self explanatory. Do make sure you temporarily save your form and write down your Temporary Application ID. You'll be going back and forth on this form until you get all the data filled in and some doesn't stick, for example, when I add my son into the form as a dependent, the data disappears. Also if you have had your visa renewed before, that data will disappear, too. Nice work QA people.

Paperwork For Employment Visas:

  1. Original valid passport and visa.
  2. Residential permit and extension form.
  3. Passport size photo.
  4. Copy of passport photo page showing validity dates.
  5. Copy of India visa.
  6. Terms and Conditions of Employment letter with salary, title, on company letterhead, signed and stamped with corporate seal.
  7. Statement of Undertaking on company letterhead, signed and stamped with corporate seal.
  8. Copy of passport or other valid ID of Indian national signing your company letters.
  9. Bank Statements (I did last three months).
  10. Copy of PAN card and income tax receipts (showing you are up to date with your Indian income tax payments for current year). If your company can provide a preliminary Form 16, that might work.
  11. Another letter from your company explaining why you need to extend your visa for another year. Again, on company letterhead, signed and stamped with corporate seal.
  12. Company incorporation paperwork.
  13. Proof of residence - NOTARIZED lease agreement.
  14. "C"-Form.
  15. Police Clearance.
Once you have completed the online application, you need to upload scans of your passport photo and mandatory documents. Good luck with this. I scanned my photos at 300 DPI, resized then to 3.5 cm square, and tried to upload. No dice. First the document size was 10.5 centimeters according to the error message. So I resized down to 3 cm square. Now it stated it was 7.5 centimeters. I resized the DPI to 72 pixels per inch and now it was erroring in the other direction - too small at 2.5 centimeters. I spent over an hour carefully resizing and downsampling the image in Photoshop to no avail. I gave up. Making the image 192 pixels square was too big, and resizing it it 191 pixels was too small. I felt like Goldi - fricking - locks.

Here's where it gets even more ridiculous. Good luck getting the correct forms. Since we're also moving house, we needed to get a new "C"-Form for each of us, which needs to be processed at the Police Commissioner's House in Pune. This cannot be done by the foreigner. Your landlord is required by law to do this. You all need to show up and bring your passports and original permits just in case he asks for them. The "C"-Form Counter is only open Monday - Friday from 10-2 and 3-6 PM. They lied when we asked if they were open on Saturday (every other counter was open EXCEPT the "C"-Form Counter). Thanks for wasting my time. AGAIN. We came back again on Monday, only to have the jerk smirking and making us jump for every little thing. He wanted two copies of certain forms, just some. We went to make copies, and then he found another page that needed a second copy. So went and made more copies, then went back again. Now he decided the lease needed to be notarized. So we went back out to find a notary. That took another hour and we returned again, just before they were closing the counter for lunch. He finally stamped the damned papers. Step 1 done.

The next step your landlord has to do is the Police Clearance. You will probably have to accompany them there as well, at least once. Don't say or do anything. Let your landlord handle this completely. Just smile and wave at the police officer if he looks at you. Do not engage. You'll need just about everything you needed for your "C"-Form. We went three times last year and it required a bribe from the person helping me (my broker). We're still trying to secure this paperwork for this renewal process and we only have six days before we are in trouble - we have to get all this stuff done and ready by the 15th, I have been working on this, generating all the paperwork required, for over a month. It's exhausting.

Next, you have to scan your documents. Now, it says only the photo is mandatory. If you have a different visa type, there may be other forms which need to be uploaded before you click on the button to set up an appointment. None of them can be more than 200K. They all have to be PDFs. Every single one of my documents is at LEAST 2 MB. I'm pretty much screwed unless I downsample these documents to basically unreadable, but hey. Not much else I can do. I can't even get the photo upload to work. I'm dreading this next time sink of downsampling all these documents - like I don't have anything better to do with my time. I think I will skip this since only the photos are required.

My next post will hopefully end on a positive note - that we finished the process successfully. I will fill you in with tips and tricks that worked for us in that post. Good luck and share what's worked for you.



6 comments:

  1. I spent one hour trying to upload a photo on that site. I have 47 different sizes, but none of them can be accepted. This is the height of frustration.

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    Replies
    1. I gave the scans to a coworker who uses Internet Explorer on a PC. He had no problem uploading the photos.

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    2. Can you believe that, out of despair, I went to the FRRO Office in south Mumbai today, just to get assistance? They resized my photo in a bizarre manner and uploaded it in a jiffy! Gosh!

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  2. How did you end up filling the form?

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  3. Indian developers do no quality assurance. Even the ones selling their services to Western companies. You can imagine how bad a site would be for domestic use by a government organization. The form has several issues. If you have past history with other FRROs, it will not save and transmit that data if you mess up the Captcha. You'll have to enter it again. It will also not save accompanying family member information. Best case is using IE on a PC.

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  4. On our recent 19 day trip to India, one senior passenger had bought with them their OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) booklet issued by the Government of India and her US Passport. She was detained at Mumbai Airport by the Immigration officers for not bringing a valid visa along with her OCI Booklet.
    The OCI booklet looks like a passport. Inside it had her picture, name and personal information that identified her along with numbers that I assume could have been crossed checked by Immigration officials. The OCI booklet actual does have a printed page that states the privileges of owning that booklet. One of them stated that the bearer can have multiple lifelong entries into India.
    The Immigration officer finally did release her by stamping her US passport with a 14 day tourist visa and told her to get an “Exit Stamp” from the police station in the city she was going to visit.
    After her tour, she went to the police station to get the exit stamp. She spent the better half of her day, but they did not stamp her passport. The solution was to go to the FRRO office in Mumbai. It’s located behind Xavier’s College and to ask for a Visa Extension.
    She managed to get a two day extension stamped onto her passport so that she could leave the country.
    The FRRO office required a written letter from the hotel confirming that she was staying there.
    $30 to $40 USD to pay the fee to extend the visa.
    Airline ticket with her name and date of departure proving that she was departing India.
    The FRRO office hours are strange. They open at 9:00 am but do close for lunch and close for the rest of day rather early. Around 3:00 p.m. or so. Go early. Be patient. Be prepared with your documents and that should get you an extension of your visa.

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