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Me and Méabh outside the GNIB today.

Today I had to head to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). This is the fourth time in less than 5 years. The first year I was so nervous. In Ireland, you can’t take care of your residency before you move there. You come in like normal, receive permission to stay in the state for 90 days while at the airport, and during that period of time you go to the GNIB with your documentation and apply to live there longer term.

Before moving over I heard some stories of people for whom that process did not go well. (I’ve heard more since I arrived).

That first year, they asked a lot of questions. I filled out a bunch of forms. I even got digitally finger printed…something that I’d avoided my whole life up to that point. Then I received a card and a stamp saying I could stay for 12 months.

The second time I was also nervous, and while they asked a lot of questions, there were no forms to fill out, no finger prints and we were on our way relatively quickly. (I did get scolded for not notifying them that we had moved house.)

Today I gave the agent my passport and GNIB card, he asked for Liz’s Irish passport, but beyond that, asked for no documentation and only asked me to verify my address. That was it. Almost too easy.

On the one hand I’m quite glad I don’t need to head back until just about 4.5 years from now. I don’t really enjoy sitting in a government waiting room for 2 hours. But at the same time, it is such a positive experience in some ways. Here are a couple I thought of while there today:

It grounds me: There is a word that people living overseas often use to describe themselves…expatriate, or expat for short. The word is describing one who for a temporary or short period of time, lives outside the country of their citizenship. Expat has a bit of a cool ring to it. “Yeah, I’m an expat.”

But today it is the word immigrant that is front and centre. I didn’t go the the GNExB…I went to the office for immigrants. Now I’m originally from a country where I learned in school, that we are a “nation of immigrants,” and that’s soothing to be proud of. But over the past year or so, we’ve all seen enough viral videos of people screaming “get out of my country” to people who don’t look like them, to know immigrants aren’t as popular as we learned in 5th grade history. (And since I was once told, “you would have gotten the job if you were Irish,” I now what it feels like to be discriminated against because you are an immigrant…it isn’t great.)

Don’t get me wrong, my overall experience of being in Ireland has been overwhelmingly positive…but this is a good reminder of the privileges I experience because normally, I get to be an expat…not an immigrant.

I get to meet people from around the world and hear incredible stories. Today I got to have an extended talk with a refugee from Africa who has now lived here for 11 years. It started because I’d offered to let him use my iPhone charger…which I didn’t actually have. He was confused because he thought I sounded Irish. I don’t. He opened up and shared the ups and downs of his journey here. And in the midst of that we were just two immigrants…both married to Irish citizens…but needing to come to the immigration office to get permission to stay with our families.

So, while I’m a quite happy with how my visit went today…I’m even more happy that my residency is settled for the next 4.5 years or so.

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