Two years ago my wife, Diana (Di or Charlie), set out on planning “The Trip”. Where? To Corfu. Corfu? Yes, Corfu. Why? Well, because one of the authors (Gerald Durrell) she enjoys spent time growing up there and wrote about it. She also planned to spend time with her family in England and invited them, and some American friends, to spend time with us at the villa she was renting on the Greek island of Corfu.
Along the way there have been a few bumps in the road. First, her British passport expired and she had to renew it — by mail. Eventually, she got her new passport and then another bump appeared.
Because she is a British citizen she needs a “green card” to live in the United States. She’s had one for some forty years — yes, she is a legal Permanent Resident of the United States. These cards are good for ten years and must then be renewed. The last two renewals were difficult and involved crowds and standing (and/or sitting) in long lines.
Owing to her medical problems of the last few years (and her forced retirement) neither of us realized that her card had passed its expiration date. She was still a legal resident but not having the card would bring about problems traveling out of the country and then trying to re-enter.
We filed for renewal of her card online but had a great deal of difficulty using the government’s site. The customer service phone help people were quite good in helping us navigate its foibles, but we had to use them each time we went to the site as it refused to recognize her username and password.
She paid her renewal fee online without any problem, but we then found out that it would require up to nine months for her to receive her new card — that would be long after we would have returned from our travels. So, we would have to set up an appointment with Immigration to get her passport stamped with an extension.
We arrived at the appointed Immigration facility a few minutes early for her appointment and were pleasantly surprised that there were only three other people in the office. Our appointment with the Immigration clerk (?) went quickly and twenty minutes later we left with my wife’s passport properly stamped and signed with a nine-month extension (to her green card) so she could travel out of the country and re-enter with a minimum of hassle.
The nine-month extension was because replacing her Permanent Resident card could take up to nine months.
A week or two later we received a letter from Immigration informing us that we now had another scheduled appointment at another building for “biometrics” processing. This appointment was for two days before our departure for the UK.
We again arrived a few minutes early and found a couple of dozen people sitting and waiting for their appointments. However, luck and kindness made things a bit easier. After filling out an appointment paper — name, nationality, etc. — the gentleman in charge moved us to the front of the queue as my wife was in her wheel-chair.
Twenty or so minutes later, her picture and fingerprints taken, we were set to go. Immigration also updated her now-expired Permanent Resident card with the new information and a new nine-month extension. (Although her new card will still require not arrive for about another nine months.)
Legally we were now set to leave and re-enter the United States.
(to be continued)