The move, Part 2: How I was nearly deportedBy
As we were landing in Dublin I was trying to decide what to say to the customs agent. Yes, I’m registered with the foreign births entry – so I’m technically a citizen – I have a piece of paper telling me so, but that paper is currently in the hands of the Irish consulate – they’re processing my application for an Irish passport. It should be back in 5 weeks. I’m allowed in the country for 90 days with my American passport. My plan is to stay here and hunt for jobs while I wait for the passport to come in, then I’ll head over to the UK or Austria for a weekend, leaving as an American and reentering as an Irishman. But how do I explain this delicate situation? I could lie, tell him that I’m just vacationing and most likely get in scot-free, but if I’m caught in my lie I’ll be in serious trouble. So I decide to tell the truth.
I approach the immigration agent. “How long are you planning to stay in Ireland?” he asks.
“What’s the purpose of your visit?”
“Well, I’m planning to move here, so for now I’m just doing a little job hunting, some exploring, trying to figure out some job possibilities.”
“Move here? You can’t just do that.”
“Oh, right. Well, I’m a dual citizen. I’m in the process of getting my Irish passport. I’m here to do some networking, then I’ll leave the country and return when I have my Irish passport.”
“Do you have any proof of being an Irish citizen?”
“Well, the papers are with the Irish consulate – they’re processing my application.”
“Hm. Well, how much money do you have on you?”
“Right now? 90euro.”
He looks up from my passport and raises his eyebrows. “You have 90euro to stay here for sixty days?”
“Well, I have a lot more than that in my bank account, that’s just the petty cash I had exchanged at the airport.”
“Do you have any proof of that?”
Things went downhill from here. He never got off the fact that I had only 90euro to my name and couldn’t prove otherwise. Pulling up my bank statement on my computer did nothing for him because “How do I know you didn’t doctor that?” Do you have any skills? Did you have a job in the States? What do you do?” I tell him and he asks if I have a resume. I do, but it’s on my computer and again, he says he can’t be sure I didn’t just make it all up.
Then he starts his lecture. “You didn’t really think this through, did you? You know, if I were to come to America and give the answers you’re giving me, I’d be in an interrogation room for hours and likely sent home. You sound pretty naive to me. Do you know how few jobs there are in Ireland right now? I’ll have to talk to my manager about this, because you have to understand I can’t just let you in with the information you’re giving me.”
When I was researching coming here I found that I was entitled to stay 90 days in the country with my American passport without any special visa. That’s how it worked when I studied here, that’s what the consulate told me. I never thought I’d have to prove that I would be a productive member of society, that I’d have to show a bank note. Of course, it all seemed obvious in hindsight. As I sat in the waiting area, I heard him make call after call, talking to managers. I could only make out bits and pieces of what he was saying, “He just comes here with no money and expects us to…if he wasn’t bloody American it wouldn’t be such an issue…it’s a fucking Saturday morning how am I supposed to confirm any of what he’s telling me?” I started dying a little inside. Everything I’ve worked for was going to be put to a stop before I even got in the country. Finally, he approaches me with his boss. The boss asks me the same set of questions, and I answer, this time a little more labored. My mouth feels like cotton. My heart is racing. I’m panicking. I’m not giving good answers. With each word I say I sound more and more like a vagrant.
“How much money do you have in your bank account,” bossman asks.
“Uh, over $2000,” I reply. I was wrong – I actually have 2000euros, not dollars.
“So you have 1400euros, roughly? For 60 days? That’s only about 100euro a week. You can’t live on that.”
“Well, uh, I plan to, ahem, live frugally.”
“Do you have a return flight?”
“Well, no. I’m going to see how things are going and then get the plane ticket when it’s time.”
“And how do you expect to pay for that plane ticket?”
I can see how poorly I’m doing. I can see everything crumbling. But when you’re panicked and pushed into a corner like that, it’s hard to recover. He asks if my parents know that I’m doing this, I answer that yes, they’re supportive of me. So they’ll support you if you get into trouble, he asks. Yes. What’s their phone number? I give it to him, and he goes to call my parents. Nothing like getting a 2am call from a customs agent, eh mom?
According to my mom, he told her a lot of the same things he told me: He can’t just up and move. Do you realize how bad the Irish job market is? He seems pretty unprepared, etc.
My mom replies, “Yes, we know how bad things are there, they’re not so good over here, either. We know he’s doing this; he’s been planning it for well over a year now. If he runs out of money then he’ll come home. He’s young, he wants to have an adventure.”
He lets me wait it out for a good 20 minutes before calling me over. He puts a stamp on my passport and starts writing on the stamp.
“I’m giving you 30 days, because you don’t have the money to survive for much longer than that, right? If you’re getting along okay, you’ve got a job, here’s what you’ll do. Go to the Garda in Galway, ask to speak to the immigration agent, and he can extend your time here. Otherwise, you’ve got to go home.”
I thank him and apologize for not having papers, and he launches into The Lecture again. At the end I thank him again and he says, “Do me a favor, okay? Go call your mum. She’s worried sick on account of me.”
“I will, thank you.” I leave to call her to tell her I’m okay, hop on a bus to Galway, and have a very difficult 3-hour bus ride. This guy really shook me up. As I write this, over 24 hours after the encounter, I’m still pretty out of sorts. He thought so little of me. It’s hard to shake his lack of confidence in me. Why is it strangers can have such an effect on my self-confidence?
So now I have until December 14 to get a job or get my Irish passport. This certainly raises the stakes. Here we go.
(Part 3 coming tomorrow)