Strange as it may seem, I had to pay for a 1 year employment visa to volunteer with Child Haven.

Any foreigner with said visa must register at a designated office within 14 days of arrival or you could be detained when leaving India.

Most major cities have special registration offices, but since my location is rural, I had to do mine at the district police office in Alibag.

I risked life and limb to snap these photos, some were taken in a hurried state as my palms sweat not knowing what would happen if an officer noticed me clicking away. On top of that, they had to pry my passport from my hands and held it for several hours.

In truth, they probably would have happily posed with me and offered me chai in the process!

Outside view of police compound:

A police scooter (?) with horse in background:

Close-up of horse. Notice it’s not fenced in. I kept wondering, do they ride it RCMP style?

Bit blurry, but you get the idea. Out of all the rooms we were in I saw 2 women in uniform. The clerical staff wear saris. You can see they share one computer between them in the main reception area:

Prakesh at left in white shirt (assistant manager of Savarsai home) talking to a plain clothes policeman about my registration. In total, we spent 4 hours waiting around for forms to be completed!

A paper copier box recycled into a book cover. I was kind of impressed with their creativity:

Interior. Notice the large folder sitting on the desk where the officer is standing. I observed a clerk “filing” papers in those large, cumbersome folders. Computers are several years old:

Indian bureaucracy sure love their stamps, and not the electronic kind:

Office of the assistant police chief. He asked why my passport said “Brazil”. I said,”I visited there 2 years ago. It’s a visa, like the one I have for India?” Clearly there was a lapse in communication. The office is empty as he tried to take my file to his boss for review.

They sure know how to make a foreigner feel welcome. I am “Form A”:

After spending a nervous 4 hours worried about the life of my passport, we were ushered into the police chief’s office, which was vast. There was no doubt he was the boss. A ceiling fan whirred above as the assistant chief explained what I am doing here. Volunteering? With Children? The big chief gave me a once over. I forced a bright smile to show how harmless I am. We exchanged no words. Only Prakesh conversed with him in Marathi.

It occurred to me they could reject my registration, and the thought gripped fiercely as the minutes ticked by in his office. I gave an internal sigh when he finally reached for my file.

The culmination of all that waiting transpired into a measly stamp:

The ins and outs of registration:

  1. Here’s a list of foreigner registration offices: FRRO’s. If you are not near any of these offices, you will have to go to the nearest police district office.
  2. Any foreigner spending more than 180 days in India must register. This includes students, employment, Missionary, medical, etc.
  3. Registration should cost nothing, but it’s not uncommon for police officers to ask for a bribe. Unbeknownst to me, Prakesh paid 100 rupees. Other interns at Child Haven paid 300 rupees. I recommend you refuse to pay. As much as they attempt to scare you, it is free.
  4. An employment visa runs about $200! Expensive compared to a tourist visa which is approximately $69 CDN. Would I do this again? Probably not. The plus side is my visa is multiple entry.
  5. Be prepared to provide 4 copies of passport photos, application forms and copies of your passport. You can do this fairly cheaply in India. Passport photos were 8 in a set for 60 to 80 rupees, photocopies and prints were 1 to 5 rupees each, and Internet is 20 rupees per hour.
  6. When leaving the country, you have to present your registration to an immigration officer.

For  full instructions on how to complete registration visit the Indian Bureau of Immigration and download the application form.

Be forewarned, they will change things up with no notice. The officer wouldn’t even accept my initial forms and created his own, asking for 4 more passport photos. I was lucky to have 4 left.

Ahh, this is India!