Friday, January 25, 2013

Loss of a US Passport in Bangalore.

Image source: Wikipedia.
It happened to one of my relatives in a recent visit to Bangalore. This relative — call her Ms. X — had come to Bangalore from the United States to attend her cousin's wedding. Not only did she miss the central wedding ceremony, a primary purpose of her visit, the Kanyadaan (ಕನ್ಯಾದಾನ), but ended up having to deal with officials from the Karnataka State Police and visiting the US Consulate in Chennai, before she could continue with her return journey as scheduled.

Once she realized she had 'lost' her purse, most likely due to someone's lifting it away from where she had set it down in the wedding hall as a temporary measure, it became important to let the local police know about it. And, we had to reach out to the police that had the proper jurisdiction over the wedding venue. We prepared  the report, all of it hand-written. (For a state government that boasts of trillions of rupees in IT exports by 2020, and as the IT Hub of India, it is somewhat ironical that the Karnataka police stations are not well equipped with adequate computer machinery: we had to file a hand-written report).

In a situation like this, that too in a wedding context, a lot of come people come forward to offer help. Somewhere in this exchange, it became a bit more obvious to me, that we need to have several things done, in that order, before she could leave India as scheduled:
  1. a First Information Report (FIR), and not just a 'loss' report. 
  2. a Replacement Passport from the US Consulate, the nearest consulate being in Chennai.
  3. some sort of documentation in lieu of the lost visa, thanks to the lost passport, that she would have no objection from local authorities to leave India.
Luckily, it so happened that the police outpost where we had filed the 'loss' report had felt a need for greater investigation. The Inspector from the outpost visited the wedding venue later in the day, during the reception, and facilitated the creation of the FIR, item No. 1.

Armed with an FIR, on to Chennai, for item No. 2, the Replacement Passport.

Within a couple of hours of our being at the consulate the next morning, we had obtained a Replacement Passport, from a very streamlined consular office. To help in these matters, the US State Department has a web page describing what to do when some loses a US passport abroad: Lost and Stolen US Passports Abroad. And, the US Indian Consulate even has a Facebook page about American Citizen Services.

Item No. 3 involved interaction with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Bangalore. From the FRRO website:

A. In case of foreigners reporting due to loss of passport

  1. New passport or emergency travel document issued by the concerned foreign Mission.
  2. Police reporting about the loss/stolen passport i.e. loss certificate or FIR.
  3. Consulate's letter indicating the particulars of stolen passport and Indian passport.
  4. If the foreigner is a registered with any FRRO/FRO then a NOC to that effect from the concerned FRRO/FRO.
  5. Confirmed Air Ticket for departure with OK status for returning from the airport.
  6. Four passport size photographs (4 Cm x 4 cm colour photo with white background, ears distinctly visible, without spectacles and caps.
  7. Proof of Residence i.e. Hotel/Guest House payment receipt, Leave & License Agreement etc.
  8. Apart from the above documents additional supportive documents can be asked for in certain cases.
A private lawyer citizen has meaningful information on the web regarding the Bangalore office.

Even though we got to the FRRO at about 9:00 am the next day, we spent the entire day at the office. We were unaware that the Proof of Residence would be more than an innocuous certification from the owner of the residence where she stayed; it ended up requiring a police certificate from the outpost in the jurisdiction of where she stayed, involving in turn an affidavit from a neighbor. These requirements, and a further inability of the FRRO to determine how much fees should be charged for this exit permit case 1, provided for some anxious moments during the day.

Ms. X is now back in the US: All is well that ends well. Except, of course, she missed the primary event for which she visited India. C'est la vie!

1FRRO would not assess the fees to be paid until after they 'saw' all the documentation; and, of course, they require the payment as a Demand Draft (DD), a synonym for the American Cashier's Check. The nearby banks closed at 4:00 pm; FRRO assessed the fees at about 5:30 pm, and a DD was couriered from somewhere else in the city at about 6:00 pm, and the exit permit issued at about 6:30 pm.

1 comment:

  1. Wow!!! What a mess. Not as bad as my friend went through during 80's. He checked in the briefcase with his Indian passport, green card, cash and jewelry on his way from Arizona to Washington D.C. Lost his briefcase as one would expect. He obtained a replacement passport from the Indian Embassy and continued his trip. It took him a long time to get the replacement green card in India and in the process lost his job.