Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Mumbai FRRO

Nope, I didn't spell that wrong.  FRRO stands for Foreign Regional Registration Office.  Although my hair is definitely a bit frizzier here than during rainy season in Brasilia or Chicago in the summertime.  I digress.

India requires you to complete a FRRO visit if you are going to stay in India for longer than six months.   Also you've gotta complete your visit within 14 days of your arrival.

Yesterday there were 11 newbies and 3 oldies who visited FRRO.  As we drove there across the Worli Sea Link, I realized we were going into the older part of the city.  Out the bus windows we saw lots of rickshaws due to the rain, my first cow (Cow Count Goo was 3 days), tents and just people trying to complete their Saturday business.

When we arrived, we pulled up to an old colonial style building.  I took the lift complete with two grate-style, folding doors up to the third floor with a car full of men to meet my friends.

Before I went, I asked a couple who'd gone the day before about their experiences so I could be prepared and know what to do and what not to do during my visit.  I also wondered how this process would compare to the Federal Police residency visit in Brazil.  Additionally, I know the US doesn't make it easy for foreign visitors so I set very few expectations.

Here's what I expected:
  • waiting patiently (brought my iPad), 
  • sitting quietly while someone reviewed paperwork (sit and say nothing), 
  • needing to gather things that were missing (would seek out ASB assistance), 
  • rewriting the same information on a computer and then into a blue book and
  • long lines of waiting (iPad and friends).  
All of the above happened.

Things that were different than Brazil's process are:
  • no fingerprinting, 
  • LOTS of other foreigners applying all at the same time,
  • one person assigned to help several people simultaneously (lots of queuing)
  • purchasing an actual large file folder for your residency paperwork to be put into (mine was a great reddish pink and my school paid for it) and
  • beautiful uniforms.
People everywhere wear uniforms for various jobs but for some reason I'd never thought that saris could be turned into uniforms.  The ladies wearing them may have had different feelings but I thought they were beautiful.

The only surprising thing that happened was a large roach crawled up my good leg during our visit.  When you feel a tickle on your leg, you never know what it could be.  Gross.

If you're moving to India or you wanna come for a longer visit, I found this great blog post with some FRRO Survival Tips. Especially if you're not going with a group, her suggestions of what to brig (ipod) and what to do (make friends) are great tips. Please know that her viewpoints are her impression of her FRRO trip.  

My additional tip would be to make friends with the staff.  Notice something about them.  For instance I noticed the woman who helped me was expecting.  While she completed my paperwork, I asked her when she was due. I knew I had to find a neutral topic so I wouldn't offend her or make a joke that slowed everything down.  By asking about her baby, she asked me about the other teachers I was with, why I was living in India, my school and best of all she completed my paperwork quickly. And in case your wondering, her baby's due in January.

All in all, not a bad trip to FRRO.  Some culture, some nature (shudder) and most importantly I got my official blue book that makes me an Indian resident.  

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