2317251.jpgI’ve heard “island time” applied to places like Fiji and Bali, but it seems to apply on this wet and windy European island, as well.  Everything seems to take longer than it should:  green cards, getting an apartment, bank accounts.   

I admit that many of these difficulties were brought on by poor timing – namely the Christmas holidays, and the fact that we came to Ireland ahead of the green card.  In our defense, we had already bought our tickets for Europe as tourists before the job opportunity presented itself.  Enquiries were made by both me and my recruiter, and it seemed clear that as long as I started the application for the green card while on U.S. soil there should not be any problems.  Based on these assurances, Pat and I naively decided to press on with our original travel plans.  What a foolish mistake.  As new world travelers, we were about to get our first very hard lesson in moving to a new country. 

When we got off the plane in Dublin, Pat and I received a stern lecture from the Garda officer (Irish law enforcement) who stamped our passports.  He told us we were lucky he was allowing us to enter the country at all, but he was willing to give us two months to get the green card situation sorted out.  At the time, Pat and I both agreed that we were very fortunate to have gotten such a reasonable official at the immigration desk.  In retrospect, I wonder.  Did he know full well what a difficult time we would have trying to get anything done without having the green card in hand?  Maybe he was just teaching us a lesson the hard way. 

The Cope Foundation (my employer) had scheduled a medical examination for me to complete the week that I arrived in Cork.  The Irish health care system will definitely be a topic for a future blog.  For now, suffice it to say that the doctor’s office was Spartan at best.  I was told by another American who used to live in Dublin that health care in Ireland is about 10-15 years behind the United States.  From what I saw in December and have read about in the papers, this seeems to be a conservative estimate.

Back to the green card:  Having my medical done the week before Christmas further prolonged the time for getting the green card.  Human resources informed me that they could not submit the green card to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment until they had the medical report in hand.   Between the Christmas holidays and the appallingly short-staffed hospital doing my blood work, my green card application did not get sent in until mid-January – already a month into the short period of time we had available on the temporary visa.  

After checking the green card queue online, my recruiter assured me that I should have approval by 1 February.   This day came and went with no news.  The clock was ticking.  In a very short time we would be kicked out of the country.  On 6 February, human resources called to say that it was going to be at least another week before the green card arrived.  She suggested that Pat and I go to the Garda station and ask for an extension on our temporary visa.  Temporary visas can be approved for up to 90 days, so we should be able to get our time in Ireland pushed back for another month.  Right?  Wrong.  We were told in no uncertain terms that the date on our passport could not be extended.  Not only that, but when the green card did finally arrive we would need to leave and reenter the country and present the green card to immigration at the airport.  After getting another scolding about the poor way we had entered the country, we left the Garda Station with our tails tucked between our legs. 

Fortunately, the green card arrived two days after our failed trip to the Garda station.  We finally had the right paperwork, but now we needed to leave the country.  In an effort to make the best of the situation, we decided to view this as an opportunity to see a little more of Europe.  After all, traveling around Europe was the primary reason for moving to Ireland in the first place.  For a variety of reasons (well, two actually: cheap airline prices and limited flight choices out of Cork Airport) we chose Glasgow.  We could spend a few days seeing the sights in the city, come back through immigration the proper lawful way, and I could start work shortly thereafter.   

Success at last!  We had a great time in Glasgow, reentered the country smoothly and I am scheduled to begin work on the 25th of February.  Not quite as quickly as I would have liked, but soon enough.   So, we have now come to the end of the beginning.  Neither of us expect life to be completely smooth sailing from here on out, but it should be much less stressful now that I can begin work, we have a place to live and have an Irish bank account.  We even have library cards.  It is official.  We have moved to Ireland.