I needed to take a few days off before writing about our final step of the process, the dreaded FRRO (Foreigner’s Regional Registration Office). This was like the DMV without any rules. I knew in advance that the FRRO in Mumbai was requesting a dozen different documents to complete the applications for our twins’ exit permits. In addition, Mumbai FRRO has decided that they will no longer process applications for ‘single’ parent (i.e. gay) surrogacies, and thus sends the scanned documents via email to the Delhi Ministry of Home Affairs for approval before issuing the exit permits locally. I don’t know why only Mumbai FRRO has decided this, as the FRROs in Kolkata, Hyderabad, Delhi, and pretty much everywhere else are still allowing it, but that’s the hand we have been dealt.
As soon as we picked up the baby passports and letter of introduction from the US consulate, I returned home to fill out the FRRO applications online. I printed a copy of each child’s application in the business center, and made sure that I had a full set of documents for each child. It’s better to make an entire second set of copies just in case, because the copy machine at the FRRO is not something you want to deal with. After completing the applications, you are given the option to select the date of your physical appointment at the FRRO. Thankfully, there were still slots available for the following day. The slots are not for a specific time, so it’s best to arrive well before the doors open at 9:30 AM.
The following day, Wednesday, Mom and I loaded the babies into our car and took the 45-minute drive down to the FRRO. Here is a YouTube video made by hammockguy66, who thoughtfully filmed the drive up to the building, as there are no signs on the main road. It is located down the road, behind St. Xavier College’s welcome sign, so make sure your driver turns when he sees that sign. We left the hotel at 7 am to account for any traffic and arrived around 7:45. You will never be prepared for this experience, so let me just explain that the building itself looks like a bombed-out warehouse. The sign that lists the departments on each floor is not attached to the wall… someone just propped it up against the building next to a pile of trash. A security guard sits at a folding card table stacked with large ledgers in front of an open door frame leading into the building. The doors have long been removed and are nowhere to be found, but the brackets that once held them in place are still swinging in the sweltering breeze. When you peek into the entryway, you see a set of stairs covered in dust and construction materials, live wires hanging down that should probably be avoided, and an elevator that looks like it could easily become your coffin. I’m not exaggerating.
The security guard was very nice and explained that we were extremely early and that we could have a set on a bench right next to his own chair. The bench looks like it was stolen from an airport lounge 20 years ago, but it was comfortable enough. At 9 AM, the guard suddenly announced that people could start signing their names into the ledger and head upstairs to the 3rd floor waiting room. Despite the order in which you sign your name, your seating order in the 3rd floor waiting room determines how quickly you will be seen. We ended up as the 5th and 6th chairs (they are numbered, as is every single thing here in India). During the half hour wait until the FRRO opened at 9:30, Julianne decided to have a little meltdown that her bottle, her pacifier, her swaddle, and snuggling could not cure. I think that the lack of air conditioning was getting to her, but eventually she calmed down. Henry slept the entire time in my Bjorn.
At 9:30, the officer at the reception desk started calling us in. Each time a person was called, everyone was required to shift down to the next chair. A few minutes later, we were before the officer. He asked my intentions (to apply for exit permits) and reviewed all of the paperwork briefly before writing the number 5 on my top sheet and telling me to head to window 5. By then, Mom and both babies had already gotten settled into the air conditioned interior waiting room and they were able to sit there quietly for the rest of the process. I walked over to a desk that had a large 5 drawn on the wall, but no one was sitting there, so I asked at desk 4 if this was the correct location. He told me that I must wait to be called to desk 5, so I returned to the waiting area with Mom. One of the employees who would eventually complete my entire process saw me and asked if I was waiting for desk 5. I replied ‘yes’ and she took me (strangely) to desk 15, where I sat next to her as she pulled up each of the online applications, checked every document, confirmed my status as a ‘single’ parent, looked at the babies to ensure that they matched their passport photos (Ha!), and explained that she would scan all of the documents during her afternoon session. A small roach crawled across my foot and I jumped. The FRRO takes customers from 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM, followed by lunch hour, then the rest of the day is spent processing all of that day’s applications. She had me buy two large folders from the small shop located directly behind her for 60 INR to hold all of the documents. She also explained that the documents would be sent to Delhi MHA for approval and that I would pay for the exit permits once approval was granted. The cost would be $80 US per baby, plus $30 per baby for my incorrect use of a tourist visa instead of a medical visa (that the Indian government refuses to grant ‘single’ parents effective 6 months ago despite my pregnancy already existing… bullshit). Finally, she had me write my contact information in her notebook and she gave me her mobile number to check up on the process. I left her a 1000 INR tip for her help (as I’ve heard that people have had much worse experiences here) and she seemed genuinely surprised. That evening, around 7 pm, I received a call from her explaining that my applications had been scanned and fully submitted to the Delhi MHA.
It has now been a few days since Wednesday evening’s submission, and we are still waiting for the exit permits. One of the required documents is a copy of your e-tickets for your departure flight, which is currently scheduled for Tuesday evening. Since it is Sunday and the office is closed, I will be telephoning them again tomorrow morning to remind them that we need the permits by Monday evening. I have tried a few times to contact the Delhi MHA and the Mumbal FRRO to get an update, but I am run in circles and constantly referred back to a phone number that had no information for me. When I read other blogs that were able to get exit permits in 5 hours, it really frustrates me that Mumbai alone has decided to make it difficult for us to leave. These babies are already US citizens and this step should just be a formality, but they are really dragging their feet with issuing our documents. I will update once we hear back from the FRRO.
In the meanwhile, here are the documents required for your applications for an exit visa.
-US Consulate introduction letter
-Surrogacy agreement between the applicant surrogate mother & doctor treating the case.
-Doctor’s letter who has given treatment, which explains the embryo transfer and the date of birth. This was delivered to us by the lawyer’s courier (see below).
-Discharge Letter from hospital where infant was born. Our hospital’s front desk knew exactly what to write and had it for us in a few hours time. It will be combined with a letter of ‘no dues’ or outstanding debt into one document, and you can point this out if the FRRO officer wants to get picky.
-Infant’s (Applicant) passport.
-Infant’s birth certificate issued by Indian authority.
-Parent’s passport and visa copy.
-Confirmed Air Ticket (Infant + parent’s)
- Infant’s photo – 3 (with white background) – They only took 1 of the 3 and used a webcam to scan it into the online application, but bring 3 just in case.
-‘No objection letter’ / No Dues affidavit from Surrogate mother. The lawyer would have already obtained this document for you while you were waiting for the birth certificates. Our surrogate returned to Rotunda where she signed the affidavit and it was notarized and brought to us at the hotel.
-“No dues are pending” letter from Clinic. This letter was also brought to our hotel by the lawyer’s courier.
-Letter from the hotel you’re staying or last stayed. Our concierge had experience with these documents and was able do draw one up that simply stated “Mr. Matthew _________ has been a guest at our hotel from x to y.” and it was printed on official letterhead and signed by the manager.
More to come…