[Check here for FRRO addresses in a few other cities.]
Officially, the office opens at 9:30, but my advice is to get there at 8:00. I showed up between 9:30-10:00, and the process took almost five hours. A friend of mine showed up at 8:00, was third in the queue, and was done by 10:00.
Here's what you should take to the FRRO (if you are an American, anyway):
- comfortable shoes because you will not be able to sit down
- your own pen with black or blue ink!
- your passport, with research visa glued inside (if you don't have this, you're probably still sitting in the airport, waiting to be deported)
- 3 photocopies of your passport
- 3 copies of the research visa
- 3 copies of the affiliation letter stating that you are a legitimate researcher (for instance, I brought my certificate of affiliation with JNU)
- 3 copies of your hotel/guesthouse C-Form if you have one
- 4 passport photos
- The flight number and date you arrived in India
- Address in India
- Address in U.S.
- A book to read while you wait, or an MP3 player for chilling
- A snack (you're not supposed to bring food, but I did eat a granola bar while standing in line)
The general process is this: first you stand in line to get a form to fill out (I got the green form, "Applicaton for Registration"). You fill that out with passport number, visa number, flight number, etc. You also get a little book, fill that out with the same information. If you are lucky, they will give you three green forms, and you can fill them out in triplicate. If you are unlucky, you will have to run make photocopies of your one form, because you need to turn in three (make a fourth copy, just in case). You can find a photocopy shop outside the gate, to the left, across the road, maybe 100 yards down the street. This same shop will do passport photos, so don't panic if you forget them, you can buy some after you get the registration form.
Take four passport photos, glue three to the triplicated form, and one in the little book (glue stick is outside main room door, on desk, if someone hasn't stolen it). Collate your documents into three packs. Each pack should have copy of passport, copy of visa, copy of affiliation letter, copy of (green) form.
If you look at the top of your registration form, there should be a handwritten note on it, something like "3/25" or "2/17". This number tells you which counter to keep your eye on (2 or 3 in these examples) and what number you are in the queue (25th or 17th in these examples). In theory, you can take a seat and wait for your number to be called. In practice, you will notice a crowd around each counter, and the truth is, whoever is closest usually gets immediate service. They do call out numbers, but if your papers aren't on the desk approximately two seconds later, you will be passed by. So be alert!
After your number is called, you approach the desk, and the person behind it looks over your forms, types some things into the computer, and stamp stamp stamps everything. Then she or he will send you over to "In Charge." At this desk, you simply hand over the stamped forms, and they smile and tell you to have a nice day as they drop the forms into the in basket. Process complete.
The process takes longer than it needs to take because some people have really odd registration requests. It takes ten people to solve their problem. This is why it is good to be 3rd in the queue, that way no odd problems stall out in front of you. It's not a complex process--pick up form, fill out form, glue photos on form, have form stamped, drop off stamped form--but be prepared to spend a number of hours getting it done.