Dear visitor, if you plan to stay in India for more than 180 days there are no excuses: even if you do not wish or you are afraid to do so – you have to have to face Indian bureaucracy for the first (and definitely not last) time and clear FRRO. Foreign Regional Registration Office gives you the privileges to be a legal resident in India, so in other words, it handles all the services related to foreigners residing in India. It might be probably too much of India to face in the first 14 days, especially for first-time travelers, but FRRO Registration is too important to even put other things first. Here is why and how to cope with it, not to go crazy.
Before we get into details, quick 3 warm-up questions to have some understanding of the importance of immigration policies for foreigners in India.
Who actually needs to register?
- All foreigners (including foreigners of Indian origin) visiting India on long term (more than 180 days continuously) Student Visa, Medical Visa, Research Visa and Employment Visa are required to get themselves registered with the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO)/ Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) concerned having jurisdiction over the place where the foreigner intends to stay, within 14 days of arrival.
- Foreigners other than those mentioned above will not be required to get themselves registered, even if they have entered India on a long term visa provided their continuous stay in India does not exceed 180 days. If the intention of the foreigner is to stay in India for more than 180 days, he/she should get himself/ herself registered well before the expiry of 180 days from the date of arrival with the FRRO/FRO concerned.
- Children below the age of 12 years are exempted from FRRO/FRO registration.
- Registration is also required in the case of visa less than 180 days and if there is a special endorsement “for registration required”.
Why do I need a residence permit (RP)?
RP is a requirement for foreigners staying in India for longer than 180 days. It is issued following registration at the FRRO and is valid for the duration specified by visa. The residence permit is a very important document that confirms that you are legally staying in the country. It helps a lot with your next steps in India, starting from opening the bank account, getting a PAN card (if you work in India) or simply leaving the country (you need to handover it on your departure day in the airport).
If by any chance, you lose your RP, the whole process might be quite painful and frustrating. It’s necessary to have a duplicate one issued as soon as possible. Just keep in mind: always keep a copy of all the important documents. Soft copy plus extra printouts will save you one day.
What should I actually do to get my request approved?
- Online application – to provide your basic data (name, surname, passport number, date of birth). This part of the process is digitalized so it goes quite smoothly. You will receive OTP to your e-mail ID as well as the Indian mobile number you entered during the registration process.
- Collect all required documents (both soft copy and hard copies). Keep it with you along with the originals.
- Upload documents. Waiting and having things done in FRRO a couple of months ago used to take ages, even for simple requests like the change of address you could spend there the entire day. Stay patient for the process right now as well as it may take weeks to get your extension, visa conversion or any other request approved and delivered.
Now using this web base application provides faceless, cashless and paperless services, made the process a bit easier. Foreigners are required to create their own USER-ID by registering themselves using personal e-mail ID and Indian mobile number. The necessary immigration document e.g. Registration Permit/Certificate (RP/RC), Visa Extension Certificate, etc will be sent by post on the address mentioned during registration. It would also be electronically sent to you to his registered email ID.
“e-FRRO” services started running since February 12, 2018 as a pilot project in four FRROs across India (Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai). Now it has been rolled out in the remaining eight FRROs, namely Kolkata, Amritsar, Hyderabad, Cochin, Thiruvananthapuram, Calicut, Lucknow and Ahmedabad.
I’ve seen crying people there in FRRO, I’ve seen disguised or completely broken faces. Disappointment reactions mix with happiness of finally received approval. You can find some guidelines below on how to make the process less inconvenient, in other words – how not to get headache or stomach pain just for the thought of going there again.
Come to India informed as much as possible
Ignorantia legis non excusat or Ignorantia iuris nocet describes everything so at least partially, whatever can be done online before landing – do it. FRRO registers your legal presence, issues a residence permit, registers any change of address; extends or converts certain kinds of visas; grants exit visas. All important and legal processes that have to be fulfilled in the majority of cases in the first 14 days of your arrival to India. There are lots of Internet forums, expat facebook groups that can guide you with the most current requirements (that does not obviously release from the obligation to contact FRRO and check by yourself – these groups of other expats will respond definitely faster than FRRO representatives). Trust me – lots of people do struggle with FRRO, but the same number of them also went through it and will definitely give you a hand on how to make the whole process easy. Do not take risk of missing anything. Ask, ask, ask any other expat/foreigner who experienced similar applications. Check for updates and have the most updated information with you when you show up in FRRO.
BOI: keep yourself informed
It’s a bible for all the updates/regulations/ guidelines for long term stay foreigners in India. Official and governmental site where you can find information what is the process for getting your immigration issues done. Starting from FRRO addresses and contact data, finishing up with registration steps (keep this site handy too). Check it from time to time – law changes and that would be very bad when you miss something just because you were not informed about the modifications. If you register at a police station in a smaller city you might need to bring an Indian friend – quite often the officers who deal with foreigner registrations do not speak English. It will take several visits to the police station and a lot of patience to complete your registration.
Do not miss the deadline
Why it is so important to finish all the formalities? Failing to register is illegal and can get you in big trouble when you try to leave the country (up to 5 years in prison and a fine upwards of Rs. 10,000). Check national/regional calendar holidays, statutory days off, news if there is no strike by any chance. Before you apply, kindly read all the instructions carefully. Foreigners are advised to apply at least 2 weeks in advance. Right now, the entire process can be done online, no need to visit FRRO in person. If needed, in special cases, they’ll inform you to come.
If called to report in person: be on time
Most FRROs take applications from 9:30 – 1 pm. After 1 pm, they only remain open for those already in line. Queue is based on the numbered token system. In most of the FRROs, in your online application, you will get a time slot that you should come to the office – sometimes, it may happen that FRRO employees will not let you go into line before your time slot and after neither. After your time slot is missed, they may ask you to come the next day. And again, the entire process starts from the beginning. Watch your turn carefully, as sitting there and waiting takes time, ages to be precise.
If called to report in person: carry extra copies
Depending on the kind of visa you have, there might be additional documents you need to have. Always take more than less and always have originals with you. Even if the list of documents required initially does not provide it, just keep all the extras with you – just in case. There will be no chance of asking for 1 page Xerox copy inside the FRRO premises or going back for forgotten material, no one is going to do a favor for you. People will be rather happy that one person quits the line and make their waiting time shorter. But, a small snag is there too. You just keep extra copies with you, do not handover everything to the FRRO representative. Definitely, he or she doesn’t require a full set of documents you brought. Only give the officer what they specifically request and keep the rest of the documentation with you until they ask for it.
If called to report in person: set low expectations
I met very few foreigners who submitted their application in FRRO in just one day. Just a perfect and almost imaginary situation. Most of the time, there will be one little thing missing that will push you to come repeatedly to the same place. The most likely scenario is that you will get a deficiency letter to bring whatever is required. Just to make you come over again, and again, and again. The decision for your request can be also kind of subjective one, depending on the mood of the person at the counter. Be patient and polite, you don’t want to experience showing faces game for such absolutely necessary thing as your registration, do you?
If called to report in person: do not question much
The same can say for anyone demanding to understand the system, the attitude is the key and makes the whole process a lot more tolerable. Use the energy to enjoy your Indian adventure instead of losing your temper on Indian bureaucracy processes. Make friends with people of the same line, they are sharing a similar experience, stay open-minded and patient. Fortunately, foreigners are pretty helpful to other foreigners in need 🙂
For 2.5 years I visited FRRO more than 20 times. Reasons were different, from first registration and request for Residence Permit, visa conversions, transfer to another FRRO and finally to applying and receiving my OCI card. Please excuse my honesty but frankly speaking, from my personal experience, there are plenty of things that we – foreigners personally can handle being still a guest in your country, staying in India, culture differences, difficult conditions, contradictory behaviors, dirt, noise, and pollution. But this one thing that is truly difficult to understand is how does sometimes the FRRO processes make the foreigners’ life tough. I assume and I admit that Indian nationalities might go through similar difficulties applying for visas for other countries that’s why I hope this e-process helps people go through FRRO easier and faster than previously.
Since I first time entered India FRRO process went through big changes. Previously it was difficult, time-consuming and embarrassing to get what you need to have to be legally in India. Now I’m a happy OCI cardholder – and the day it was handed over to me I felt the biggest stress release since my first day in India. As of now, visiting FRRO office is (so far) over for me no one knows what the future brings. We all need to stay informed and alert for changes or modifications in immigration regulations.
I would love to hear your comments on this! What is your FRRO experience? Thank you very much for reading this article. I am curious if you have/had any experience of e-FRRO visa registration/extension? Any comments? – please share your experience. And if you liked the article – share it, click “Like it” and subscribe to my newsletter.
(cover photo source: indianmirror)