In honor of today being the 2 month-iversary of my moving to Ireland, I thought it would be appropriate to give a full description of my immigration process.
In my bonus-mom Cathy’s wise words, studying abroad begins before you leave. Orientation events for UCD started the month before I left, and they were virtual. Most of them started at 9:00 am...Dublin time. Which is 3:00 am Minnesota time. So for about a month before I left, I was waking up most days at 3:00 am, logging onto a zoom, and trying to keep my eyes open while I learned important information pertaining to my ability to live in the country I was moving to.
At one of those events, I learned that I had to book an appointment with the Irish Immigration Service, and appointments were really hard to get as scammers had created computer programs to take all available appointments as soon as they were released and sell them for a profit. Well, I didn’t want to support the scammers, so I kicked into high gear, emailing the school and asking how I could get an appointment and reaching out to others who knew the process. They told me I had to start refreshing the page at 10:00 am, when all the appointment times were released. 10:00 am Dublin time. So, I set another alarm for 3:55 am.
I was regularly checking the UCD Immigration Facebook page and saw that UCD received a small block of appointments from the Immigration Service, which is a rare occurrence and not one that UCD can guarantee. I leapt at the opportunity, checking the page every morning before the sun rose, and filled out the form minutes after it was published. As I was boarding the plane for Ireland, I was notified that I had an appointment.
I had also been working during this time to collect all the necessary papers, as everything from bank statements to health insurance had to be proven on paper at the meeting. I carefully packed them in a folder and tucked it into my suitcase.
The week leading up to my meeting, I checked, double checked, and triple checked all of my papers. I practiced getting to the office via bus and timed how long it took me. Other people who had already had their meeting told me they merely had to show the officer their passport and certificate of attendance, so I was hopeful that the meeting would be simple and brief, but you never know.
The day of my meeting, I arrived an hour early and stood outside in the rain. I didn’t mind a bit; I was just glad to be safely at the office. They directed me to the waiting area, and I listened to shuffling papers, officers speaking gently to some and officers harshly denying others their permit, the animatronic voice calling each number up one by one, pens clicking, and my own heart pounding. One officer in particular seemed to be exceptionally impatient; she kept shouting at one man who could not prove his access to funds. I sat and watched the numbers climb slowly towards mine, hoping I would not work with her. I checked one more time that my passport was still safely in my folder.
Finally, my number was called and I was directed right to the officer who had just finished shouting at some poor man. I smiled as widely as I could when I sat down, hoping she couldn't see my knees knocking and that my smile would somehow help sway her if there was any problem. I promise, I’m a very nice person, and I tried my best with these papers!
She asked for every single paper that was on the list of possibilities. So much for a quick and simple meeting. With shaking hands, I pulled out each one, very aware of her impatient stare through the glass. Finally, we reached health insurance.
“I need more information than this.” She glared at me.
“Oh I have the details,” I said, nervously shoving the printed-off email with the details of my plan through the tray so she could look at it.
“This is just printed off from an email. I don’t think I can accept this--” in the middle of her sentence, a door with a "Staff Only" sign behind her opened, and one of her coworkers burst through.
“MY WIFE IS HAVING THE BABY!!”
Celebration erupted behind the glass as they peppered him with questions and congratulated him. They even started making plans for meeting at a pub after work to celebrate. Meanwhile, on my side of the glass, I was trying not to keel right over from panic. What did she mean, she can’t accept this?!? Is there anything else I can do, or is it curtains for Edie’s permit for residence? Can I call Mom and have her fax us something, but there’s no way that lady will wait for a fax from Minnesota. Can I show her my driver’s license or something, anything at all?
After what felt like five years, the lady turned back to me.
“Oh, right, this. Eh, yeah, you have all the information I need here, I guess it’s fine,” she said, and stamped my passport. I held back tears of relief.
I ran through so many possible scenarios of what might happen that day--what if I’m late, what if I can’t find it, what if I don’t have a paper, what if I lose my passport, etc.--but the coworker’s wife having a baby was never on the list of possibilities I considered when preparing for that meeting.
When my Irish Residence Permit card arrived in the mail a couple days later, I breathed a sigh of relief. The girl in the ID picture smiled up at me with the grin of someone who overcame another giant hurdle in order to live her dream.