Monday, October 13, 2008

Fuera de España

So, my first blog entry post-España. I'm happy to report that I made it back to the States with a half-kilo of contraband jamón iberico and no problems with any of the four passport controls through which I had to pass.

I had been freaking out quite a bit about my journey home -- not the journey itself but whether I would have any problems with passport control in the EU or in the U.S. While more often than not I've passed through with no problems, I have had my share of scares during my time living in Spain sin papeles. In the past, I could always feign ignorance, because I was, in fact, ignorant as to the rules for traveling within the Schengen zone and the European Union. I could tell them, with a completely straight face, that I thought I was allowed to be in Spain/EU for six months and then merely leave the EU for a day, an hour, a minute (whatever necessary to get a stamp) and come back in for another six months. That is, after all, what others (Americans, British, and Spanish alike) had told me. But after extensively researching the subject before applying for a work visa, I found out that we had all been horribly wrong and just lucky to have gotten away with it and/or always dealt with forgiving passport agents. Not that the agents would know that I now know the rules... But the fact that I had applied for a prorroga last year and was rejected, leading to a one-page SALIDA OBLIGATORIA stamp in my passport, meant that I could no longer pretend to be unaware of the rules.

Fortunately, the guy at Barajas was in a hurry to start his coffee break, so he didn't even look at my passport. He ended up putting my departure stamp on top of another, older stamp in my passport. You may wonder why they would care, since I was leaving, if I had overstayed my time in Spain. I used to wonder that, too. Until the time I was interrogated and accused of being some sort of Eastern European terrorist (huh?!). Years ago I was accused of being a drug dealer. Others I know have been accused of the same. Why overstaying your visa/passport allowance is a sign of drug-dealing or terrorism is beyond me... The other problem is that, if they did notice that I had overstayed, they could have banned me from the EU for several years and/or fined me. Neither one a very appealing thought.

In Dublin, I breezed through the Irish passport control since I had a connecting flight to the States just two hours later. I was feeling good, having made it through the two EU/Schengen controls of my return journey, when I arrived at my terminal and discovered that the U.S. now has passport control in Dublin! It was surreal -- everyone with Aer Lingus flights to the U.S. went through a quick passport/customs check before heading downstairs, where eight U.S. Customs and Border Control agents awaited us in booths, just like we were landing in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, or any other international airport in the States. They asked how long I'd been out of the country. I was honest. They said OK and stamped me in. Normally, they question me about my extended stays abroad, but it seems they were far more concerned with catching baddies or illegals going to the U.S. than dealing with an American who had stayed in Europe for too long. For the first time in nearly seven years, I could relax and enjoy my long flight back to America.

4 comments:

Elizabeth Bankes Rose said...

I have been following your blog all year. I am sad to no longer hear your "pearls of wisdom" re: TEFL here in Madrid, but I understand why you felt it was time to go home. I have not actually started teaching yet (papeles hell due to Spanish bureaucracy, as I am sure you are aware. To shorten it, I do have the right to work/reside her due to my EU spouse, however, they are requiring that I wait 7 months for an appointment to file the papers, then another 2 to get the residencia/trabajar card--even though my temporary residency visa that I got from the Spanish embassy in Houston expires in 90 days!)

I do hope you at least keep up with your blog for a while though. I am interested to see how your return home fares.

Best of luck,
Liz

eslhell said...

Hi Liz,

Thanks so much for your comment, and best of luck with your quest for the Spanish work/residency card! Can you not just teach "under the table" until your papers come through?

As for me, I do plan on continuing my blog from here in the U.S. I still have a lot to say about Spain, lingering issues (as I will talk about in today's post), and a strong desire to return to Europe some day with all of my papeles in order!

I've put a link to your blog in my sidebar as well. I think it's an interesting read, especially for non-EUers who hope to live/work LEGALLY in Spain. It's important for people to have a realistic idea of what to expect, particularly when it comes to the complicated process of getting the paperwork completed.

¡Qué tengas mucha suerte en esta nueva etapa de tu vida!

Elizabeth Bankes Rose said...

Thanks for that. So far, most of my actual reporting on life in Madrid has been minimal. I find myself wandering onto political topics lately! I am hoping this will change soon.

As for working "under the table", I would even be happy with that for now. I sent my resume on Monday to 6 academies that looked decent and have so far only heard back from the American Language Academy--but only to ask me to fill in their application and send it back. I am lucky in that at least my husband is working, so although money is tight, we can manage.

Liz

Robert Cote said...

Liz,
Beware of the work visa you receive. I had a residency & work visa issued in LA. When I arrived, it took 4 months to get the permanent visa, which expired 8 months later. Once you get here, you cannot leave & re-enter Spain until you have the perm one, unless you have a dire emergency AND the govt approves it in time. My grandmother's death was a legit excuse, but the paperwork would take 2 weeks!