When an expat arrives here in India, working for an embassy, or even some companies that have many expats working in this country, there are many things that are already established for them. We were not in such a position. No one handed us a checklist explaining step by step how to do certain vital things in this new country. So we have gotten plenty of hands on learning about the unwritten “process” of doing things in India. To give you a taste of this experience, I have chosen just a few:
1. Proof of Residency — All processes, before beginning anything, require a proof of residency first. This is a very large stack of papers that are provided by the landlord. It must have the employee’s full name on it, and the name of the company you work for. In order for the proof of residency to be received, the employer has to provide proof to the landlord. When we arrived here, we did not land in a permanent spot, so it was a bit more tedious to try to make this happen.
2. The FRRO (Foreigners Regional Registration Office)– As a non-diplomat, an expat is required to register in the country of India within 7 days of arriving here. This requires taking the entire family out of work and school for part of the day to sit in a large room waiting for your number to be called. If you move residences, you must redo the FRRO process, and annually it must be redone as well when a new visa is obtained. If you are moving into a brand new building, the building must first have all of its government paperwork finished before you can file for your paperwork. Thus, the reason, that we ran into a hitch when we moved into our permanent flat because we had to wait months before the government had finished their paperwork on the building before we could redo our paperwork with our new address. These papers need to be carried as you enter and exit the country. They are required to establish anything, like internet connection, in the country.
3. Obtaining a mobile phone. The phone is vital for every family member here in India. It is not a luxury, rather a lifeline to reach the driver to be picked up because many of the driver’s areas where they wait are nowhere near where you have been dropped off. The process here to obtain a phone is much different. There are no plans you sign up for, rather you buy a phone and then pick your provider. (We love that part.) In India, though, they are very particular about the “Process” to obtain a sim card for the phone. After standing in a very long line to purchase the sim card and show all the required paperwork, the phone company then sends a person out to your place of residence to take a picture of you at that location to prove that you really reside there.
4. Buying a car. Our wonderful driver, Ashok, gets most of the credit for helping us accomplish this “process”. First of all, when you go to look at cars, they will tell you that it is coming from some other place and will be there shortly. That some other place could be hours away in reality. Well, after three full Saturdays of Tyler waiting to have the cars show up to look at them, we finally made a decision on one. That was just the beginning. To register a car as a new owner, it took our driver 20 trips to make it happen. Paperwork after paperwork needed to be completed. And at one point, when tensions between our two countries were not super great, they were ready to close the book on even finishing our registration.
5. Banking. In order to get a banking account, one must have a PAN card, something similar to a social security card. Well, of course, there are numerous hoops to jump through on getting that card, but Tyler got his and then we could finally apply for mine (that is part of the order here). Until I received my card, he was the only one with a bank card to access our account here, and let me just include that he wasn’t doing a lot of the grocery shopping so it was a bit amusing to make sure I always had enough cash on me. Once I finally received my PAN card, we could go into the bank together and sign stacks of papers bringing proof of our marriage, our US social security cards, passports, passport pictures, etc. You get the picture. Well, the banking process does not end there. They are extremely particular here about how you sign a check. So, Tyler has had so many checks rejected based on his signature that the bank told him he needs to take half a day to come to the bank and see what his signature is supposed to look like on the checks.
Yes, the processes here are humorous to the point that one wants to cry at times. I understand a country needs to follow certain security measures to remain safe, but it would just be so helpful if someone would give us a list and let us know this is the step-by-step process to make things happen.