After everything that happened on our last trip to the FRRO office, I was naturally trepidatious when we had to go back a few weeks later to request a further extension (Our initial visit got us an approval only until December 8th, but our plane ticket out of India is on December 22nd). As usual, day number one was a flop (we spent the entire morning gathering all the paperwork, we thought, and when we arrived we were informed that applications could only be submitted in the morning, 9:30-1). Now I’m back here trying to pass the time on day 2, and I have suddenly had an insight that changes everything: Somehow the whole experience has turned into a game. Here’s how it goes:
There are three desks in the building. Your goal is to exit with a visa extension, but you can only do this by passing through every desk. Think of this as leveling up. Points are scored for fewest visits to the FRRO office and/or fewest hours spent there. Extra points if your children manage to stay entertained without getting kicked out of the building (ours are currently very excited about checkers). Points lost if you don’t make it through before lunch and end up spending the whole afternoon here as well.
10:30: We are currently at level 2, on day two of our visit, 1 hour in. How did we get here? First off, we scored at least 100 extra points (reduced the effort by one whole day) by asking the right question yesterday just before leaving. We stopped at desk #1 to ensure that we had the correct information about the fees owed. The correct number was different than what our support staff person from IIIT had told us, and we were able to correct the mistake yesterday after we returned. Second, we managed to get both our driver and support staff person moving early enough this morning that our applications are numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5 instead of 22 or 62.
On level 2, we had a near disaster: We were informed that the rules had changed (not an uncommon event in this particular game), and my husband no longer qualified for an employment visa, making any extension impossible. This is because our salary is really small at IIIT: just cost of living plus free housing. Would we have to leave the country on december 8th after all? Click to find out ….