You may have/ you definitely will notice much talk about Ireland in this space, already here, here, and here. Not only was it the very first “foreign” country I ever visited, where I studied abroad in 2007, where I went grad school, and have returned numerous times since then, but I also have a significant other and an extended family in Ireland. This country has given me so much.
From the very first few weeks I spent trying to navigate my way through life in another country, Ireland really was the land of a thousand welcomes. I quickly felt “at home” there. After spending a semester studying all about Irish literature, history, politics, music, and dance I returned home to the US to finish my undergraduate degree. A year after graduating, I returned to Ireland as a postgraduate student (known as grad student in the US). And all too quickly I was writing a thesis and graduating at a time when the Irish job market was so bleak. So, following my head (and leaving my heart behind), I returned to the US in November 2010. Following an exhausting job hunt, and successful year working at a cultural exchange nonprofit organization, I again found myself at a crossroads. My department was being consolidated and office closed.
So what did I do? I was planning a short trip to Ireland anyway, so I simply extended that trip to the full 3 month tourist visa allowance. While I was there, my partner, Dermot, and I worked tirelessly in gathering all necessary evidence for the de facto relationship visa for which we were applying. This visa allows partners of Irish nationals to live and work in Ireland upon proof of a durable and lasting relationship. We gathered evidence in the form of emails, pictures, plane tickets, health insurance, letters, chats, bank statements, and even (upon request) Facebook screenshots! We heard back from the department of immigration 3 months after we submitted the initial application and they requested additional information. So of course, we obliged.
And here is where my relationship with Ireland becomes a complicated one. In early October, 6 months after our initial application, we received a phone call asking for clarification on my whereabouts. See, I submitted my American bank account information and that was the red flag. Dermot, being the utterly straight forward and honest man he is, told the department that I was not currently in country as my tourist visa ran out. The officer informed us that I cannot receive this visa if I’m not in the country and that there was a bigger problem; as Dermot and I have never signed a lease in both our names (ya know, because we legally can’t live in each other’s country!) we were not eligible for this visa.
So that’s where we are right now, Ireland and me. It’s a very odd feeling to not be welcomed in a place that feels like home; especially when that home is the land of a thousand welcomes. But I do have faith that one day we can work it out!