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Friday, 6 April 2018

Exit Permit for newborn at FRRO Chennai

Exit Permit for newborn at FRRO Chennai

My baby was born on January 08 in Chennai. I had planned to travel out with him to Australia on March 14. I had 2 months and a bit, to complete his paperwork.  It took 2 weeks for us to get his birth certificate (with a bribe). Australian Citizenship by descent for my baby took about two weeks.  My baby's Australian passport arrived in 10 days. 

All I was left to do, by March 2nd, was to get the exit permit from the Indian authorities. I work in a Consulate and we advise our customers that exit permits could take up to three days, so I was feeling relatively confident that I had lots of time.
As the exit permit process had gone online since the start of the year (2018), I didn't have to go into the office to commence the process. All I had to do was crreate an account, complete the necessary forms and uploade my baby's documents. All this was pretty self explanatory and a reasonably tech savvy person can navigate through it with ease.
However, after this, there is barely any information online on what happens. The only message I got was to wait for further instructions. I waited two days before I heard that they required further documents - this was communicated via sms and email. Once I uploaded the further documents, I was asked to wait again. The next day, I was again requested for a further document whcih I dutifully submitted, but wondered why they had not asked it the first time. The following day (4 days after my initial submission) as I had not heard anything, I decided to physically visit the office to fastrack things. I should mention; they did have a help line number, but that was always busy.
As I was getting ready to leave for the office, I receive a notification to proceed to pay online. Unfortunately, the page hangs during the payment. I login in again and it tells me that the payment is successful.  I also receive a message from my bank that the payment was successful. But then there is no information as to what to do next on the portal.  I decide to go into the office on Friday. 
At the office - The front office staff, make me wait a few minutes, and inform me athat they have not received the payment on their system and ask me to speak to the technical staff. The officer takes my details and asks me to come in the afternoon. He promises to call and update when I explain that I have a newborn and its difficult to come back and forth.  When I return in the afternoon after not getting any calls,  another officer officer is sitting there and I realise nothing has been done.  He explains it is a technical issue being resolved in Delhi and asks me to wait.  Although his answer is not promising, another officer in the room assures me that if the technical problem is not resolved, they can do my exit permit manually in an emergency (which is the day before I travel). I could see that the officers were just coming to grips with the online platform, and were learning from each issue -unfortunately I was the guinea pig.

Susrprisingly though,  on Sunday, I receive a call from an officer informing me that my payment  shows as succesful  on their system and they ask me to come in on Monday to collect the permit - they explain that sometimes there is a lag between the payment and it reflecting on the system. I go to the office on Monday midday, hoping to pick up the permit. However, the front office staff tell me that another online request for further docs will be sent  (travel ticket)  and once I submit it,  the exit permit would be ready in the aftwrnoon at 4pm.  I do as requested and wonder again why they didnt ask for the travel itineraey at the foreset and why they couldn't have things ready without me urging them.

However my resentment turns into relief, at 4pm, when the officers dutifully hand me the exit permit - I spent less than 5 minutes signing and collecting the permit.The other good thing was, my baby did not need to attend - although they gave confusing advice about this.

Overall, I think the online innovation is good -theoritically it should save you from sitting and waiting in government offices. But, practically it took nearly 7 days for me to get my baby's exit pernit and 4 visits to the office. It was also frustrating that the online portal does not give any information on what happens at each stage and how long we should normally wait for a response.  

My advice: Allow as much time as possible if applying for an exit permit - especially in these early days of the online portal being rolled out.

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