I was an illegal immigrant.
…for a day.
For those of you who were not in the loop – it has been a stressful few weeks.
In October, I went on holiday to the States for about 3.5 weeks. It was amazing. I got to see many familiar faces (some I had not seen in a decade), went to two weddings, two concerts, a birthday party, celebrated Halloween and even had a bartending gig at my favourite spot in Boulder.
It was exactly what I needed.
After a few days, I knew in my heart that I was ready to return to New Zealand. My life is there now. While I feel I’m still settling, I do know I belong. At least at this time in my life.
Before returning, I launched a temporary work visa because my current one-year visa was due to expire the end of November. New Zealand immigration suggested I apply for a temporary one 30 days before expiry. So, I did just that.
However, since I had launched the visa while in the US, my visa application was sent to the London Branch. Why? I have no idea.
At first, there wasn’t a single worry in my mind.
Two weeks before my visa was due to expire, I called immigration to see about how long until I either had my new visa or would receive an interim visa (a temporary visa granting you to remain in the country but I would be unable to work). Whoever I spoke to seemed unfazed by my dwindling days and told me not to worry.
One week before my visa was due to expire, I was notified by the London branch that they were likely to deny my visa.
My heart sank.
I put together a response (with the help of my employer) the very next day and sent it back to immigration. A reply came two days later saying they would review it in two more days time and then respond in 7 to 10 days.
If you were paying attention, that would mean they would only “review” the paperwork just two days before my visa expired… and then respond 7 to 10 days later. To add insult to injury, if I were not granted the work visa or were logged as “unlawful”, my residency application would go out the window.
I rang immigration again.
At first, I feared I would need to leave the country. My coworkers were quick to respond in varying ways. Everything from “do you need money?” to “this is bloody ridiculous!” There was so much support surrounding me that I felt invincible. It had to work out.
I spoke to immigration twice more.
The last woman I spoke to assured me I would receive an interim visa on midnight the night of expiry and all would be good in the world.
My boss put me on unpaid leave for a week and we planned to play it by ear.
But on midnight of November 27, my interim visa did not come through. The following morning, I was on the phone with immigration.
“Hm. This is strange. It does say you’re unlawful but you aren’t being flagged for an interim visa. Hold on. I need to speak with my supervisor.”
About 6 to 8 minutes later: “OK. So we’re going to have to contact the London branch and have them manually put it in. They have to respond in 24 hours, so you should get it tomorrow.”
I sat around my house that Monday, twiddling my thumbs. I thought about how I would rid all my stuff, about where in Australia I should go, or maybe South America to save some cash…
I also watched a lot of Netflix.
Tuesday morning, I stirred awake enough to see an email notification from the London branch. I groggily rolled my eyes and thought, ‘there we go. Now to just sit and wait for a proper response on the visa’.
But instead of flipping over and drifting back into a warm, fuzzy blanket of slumber, I opened the document.
MY VISA WAS GRANTED!
Elated and relieved, I jumped in the shower and headed straight into work. I know, who does that? But I love my job. And it was nice to see everyone look at me and say, “you’re back!?” That’s right. You can’t get rid of me just yet. This loud-mouth American is here to stay.
Til next time,