FRRO Revisited – visa violation

Bureau of Immigration FRRO

Indian visa violation

On my return from Sri Lanka I was held for a fair while at Bengaluru airport for an apparent visa violation.

visa-india-one-year-multi-entry
One year multiple entry visa
Apparently it works out that on a tourist visa you have to keep moving, you aren’t allowed to spend too much time in one area? I have no idea what constitutes “too much time“. The fact that I have been visiting and staying with friends (who have been showing me around the country) means that apparently I should have applied for a visitors visa? Personally I don’t really understand the difference. A short phrase in english springs to mind and would run something like this:


The tourist entered the country and visited various points and areas of historic interest during his travel. During his tour he also went to visit some friends.

The “tourist” and “visit” are contained in the same phrase and imply that the tourist is visiting the country and friends. Finer points of english language and bureaucratic law I guess.


So I was passing through the immigration channel into the airport when I was stopped and a superior was called over. They asked my purpose in India and I went through the same rigmarole as:

  • I had on my visa application,
  • on leaving the country for Sri Lanka,
  • on exiting Sri Lanka for India.

I explained I was touring around, visiting friends, wanting to do some research into my grandmother’s birthplace and having some dental work done.

Plain-clothed official bureaucracy

FRRO secret policemanA further official was called. What I call a “secret policeman”. Plain clothed and completely nondescript, I guess he was either police, army or customs. He took my passport and disappeared for a while. I was beginning to look like I’d miss my connection flight to Mangaluru.

He returned and informed me of my visa violation. His check had been able to turn up that I had stayed at HOG Hostel in Delhi a few times. Apparently that isn’t allowed? Too many days in the same place or revisiting the same place. I explained that I’d been having some dental implants. Apparently that isn’t allowed either on the visa that I am on? I should have applied for a medical visa for that. Maybe two or three visas were needed? One for dental work, one for visiting friends, one for touring? And possibly a fourth for the research into my Grandmother’s birth – who knows?

He mentioned nothing about the various hostels and hotels in Rajasthan so maybe the check wasn’t that thorough or maybe he zeroed in on the Delhi hostel because it suited his point. He also said that he could see that I hadn’t been to Kolkata yet. I explained that my intention had been to work down the western coast and then up the eastern and yes, therefore, I hadn’t been to Kolkata yet.

We talked and I explained to him that I had been in touch with the embassy in London and explained my India visit to them and this was the visa I had been granted. I had to assume that the embassy had granted me the visa I needed. I also pointed out that as there are so many differing types of visa for India it is difficult to know exactly, without having some sort of expertise in Indian visa and immigration law, for which visa to apply.

He usefully informed me that there are 24 different types of visa for India. 24 different visas!
Insanity.

The official pointed out that my visa stipulates that I had to register with the FRRO within 14 days of arrival. I pointed out that I had indeed gone to the FRRO in Delhi within the timeframe mentioned on the visa and was told to leave as it didn’t apply to me as I would be exiting the country within the 180 days stipulated on the visa and that this Sri Lankan trip was made to comply with that condition. I mentioned the FRRO in this post.

I was asked when I would be leaving the country? As yet I have no date but I assured him that I’d be gone before the expiry of the visa.

Visa violation and the black mark

So I’m being reported and apparently a black mark will be put against my name. I’ve no idea what this actually means but I guess it means that that India will not want me to start a business with Indian nationals and that that they don’t want me spending my hard earned money in their country? Personally I fail to see the logic – I travel in India I spend money on food and hotels. I spend more money on train and air tickets. Maybe I buy some clothes? Can anybody reading this explain the difference between investing money on the above items and buying some dental implants? My brain tells me that the Indian economy has benefited from considerably more pounds sterling and euros spent on my teeth than drinking a few cups of chai and staying in hostels.

So far this experience of Indian bureaucracy leads me to suggest that anyone wanting any medical or dental work done may find it easier and less frustrating to go to a country with fewer restrictions and with a more transparent visa system. India faces intense regional competition in the medical tourism sector, particularly from Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, Taiwan and Mexico. Maybe these countries should be investigated as alternatives for your medical or dental treatment? These headlines appeared online too: Kerala tourism lost revenue of Rs 1,000 crore since Nov 8: Tourism minister (See this.) For those that don’t understand the term CRORE. A crore denotes ten million in the Indian numbering system (see wiki)

I then also think about the two foreign yoga teachers that I have met here. Is their stay at the yoga schools for training also illegal under the terms of the tourist visa? And what about WorkAway? Is that legal – on a tourist visa?

Visa violation – In conclusion

India visa online - visa violation
India visa online
I have to say that the Indian government website that deals with the visa applications is one of the most confusing and incomprehensible visa application sites I have ever visited. It may be that someone should rethink the wording and layout of this site? I am fairly certain that inside the 24 differing visa categories there is plenty of opportunity and leeway for the authorities to come up with some visa violation should they so desire. However this seems counterproductive as we are told that India is an “up and coming nation“. One would think that making things easier would benefit their economy more? I think this is pretty much exemplified by Elon Musk and his Tesla Company choosing China over India in which to set up his hi-tech manufacturing plant. See [ 1 ] and [ 2 ].


FRRO

Bureau of Immigration FRRO

Foreigner Regional Registration Offices – FRRO

My visa tells me that I have to register at the FRRO or a police station within 14 days of arrival. So yesterday I went with Imran (who I now find out prefers to be called Ali – He is Imran Ali) to the FRRO. Again I can’t express how helpful Ali has been.

He arrived in a tuk-tuk to collect me and off we headed to the FRRO – Foreigner Regional Registration Offices. We arrived and the place was heaving with foreigners. Not really surprising. There were a lot a Afghan people there that Ali tells me are flooding India. I saw few caucasians, one or two.

FRRO bureaucracy

Well, a bit like Spain, the bureaucracy is horrendous. We queued up and eventually got seen only to find that I needed a “C” form. These are available from the hotel. I didn’t know. Ali rang the hotel and they whatsapped the form over. You need a proof of address. So if I had been staying with Ali, he’d have had to present his documentation. Had I been living here I’d have needed rental agreements and that kind of thing.

Lemon and pineapple drink at FRRO
Lemon and pineapple drink
Naturally this didn’t happen in 5 minutes. So we went and got a fruit drink, lemon and pineapple, and we kept coming and going until it got to my turn. Eventually I was processed and given an appointment for 10:20 the next day.

Ali decided to see if he could pull strings. I mentioned in this post that he works helping backpackers etc. Long story short, we found that as I have to leave the country at least once during my 1 year visit none of this applied to me and I hadn’t needed to make this trip after all.

So this little post is to try and explain that to any potential long-term visa holders. Because while it is stamped on my visa that I am required to go to the FRRO what they don’t make clear is that the visit is necessary ONLY were I going to stay for the year WITHOUT exiting the country.

So we went into Connaught Circus and grabbed some lunch in a nice little restaurant that provided so much food we couldn’t eat it all. I met Ali’s cousin Yamin who is one day younger than my daughter and a very nice guy too. He also is a CouchSurfer and his parents have houseboats up in Jammu and Kashmir. I’m going to try and take a visit up there. I looked so beautiful from his photos and it reminded me of Switzerland.