08 June 2009

The Foreign Registration office in Bangalore

As a foreigner, the government of India requires that I register with the police within a fortnight of my arrival in India. I have no problem with this conceptually; I believe in India's sovereignty, and I think it is within their rights. However, the implementation of this policy leaves sucks.

First of all, I admit that I don't speak Kannada, and I don't speak Hindi (or Tamil, Telugu, Assamese, or any of the twenty some official languages of India), but in my defense, I strongly doubt that the cumulative language coverage of the officers would accommodate every citizen of India, and thus the difficult of communications issue is mute. Let me also qualify this by saying that my company has a liason team, whose mission is to try to make this process much easier for me.

Nonetheless, I had to visit the foreign registration office (FRO) six times over the last week, and had to pay a $30 fee for late registration.

(Visit 1) I arrive at the office, sign in, and am handed a bundle of forms. I don't know why my liason team doesn't keep these forms on file.
(Visit 2) Because of several work engagements, I couldn't start the process until 4:30pm. The liason and I drive across town to a notary, and then back to the FRO office. When we get within a block, he tells me to get out and run. I walk in a 5:25pm, but the clerk swears it's 5:30, that there's nothing I can do, and that he doesn't care that I have to pay a $30 late fee.
(Visit 3) I come back the next day, but I forgot my passport. D'oh
(Visit 4) Later that day, they review my paperwork, highlighting several mundane details. They hand me the signed form and tell me to go to the other counter. There, they tell me to sit and wait. Thirty minutes later, I ask why I'm waiting and he tells me to go back to the first counter. There, they take my forms, hand me a receipt, and tell me to come the next evening.
(Visit 5) I arrive the next evening, and hand them my receipts. They tell me to go to the other counter, and the second counter tells me to wait. Twenty minutes later, I ask why I'm waiting, and they tell me to go back to the first counter. There, the man gives me a deposit slip, and asks me to take it to the bank down the street, where I must deposit $30. When I return to the FRO, they give me a receipt and ask me to come back Monday.
(Visit 6) I arrive, sign-in, and deposit my receipt. He tells me to go to the other counter and ask for Ajita (sp?). I do so, he looks at it for 30 minutes, then hands it back and tells me to go to the other counter. Finally, I am a legal resident.

The other interns have similarly horrifying stories; some were given business visas instead of employment visas; others were given student visas. These people have a lot more work to do before they can be legally paid within India.

I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to replace the FRO office with 100 lines of code in the language of your choice.