Visas. They’re a complicated matter. I’m lucky and privileged in that I hold a Canadian passport that allows me to visit most countries as a tourist “visa-free.” This means I don’t need to apply for anything ahead of time, it is unlikely that I will need to provide documents upon arrival, and I can often stay in a country anywhere from 30 to 90 days.
There are, of course, restrictions on this. This includes not being able to work during my tourist visa or access public funds like welfare. Pretty simple stuff.
More often than not, I’m asked basic questions at the border or airport.
“Where will you be staying?”
“How long will you be staying?”
“What is your purpose of the visit?”
“When will you be leaving?”
As someone who likes spontaneity, I often don’t have a great answer to that last question. I’m a big fan of one-way tickets and just like to go with the flow. Immigration officers don’t like this. Not having a clear exit date makes them think I’m going to stay in their country forever. Or something like that.
I first arrived in Ireland in mid-December. This process at the border was an easy one. I told them where I was going, got my 90-day stamp and was on my way. So far anyways, no issues in Ireland.
I spent the next few weeks caring for a few different pets, checking out Carcassonne, and enjoying the slightly warmer weather. I booked a ride share to take me down to Spain and spent some time in Barcelona, Valencia and visited friends in Madrid.
Overall I was out of Ireland for about 6 weeks. Once I was finished travelling around, I headed back to Ireland to enjoy the Spring.
I googled around, asked on forums, and even checked out the immigration websites to see if I would get a new 90 days, or have my ‘remaining’ sixty or so days left from my original 90.
I found no straight answer.
According to the Irish Immigration Website, as a Canadian citizen, I did not require a visa and simply needed to “prove that you have a valid reason for entering Ireland to an Immigration Officer…” There was also a section entitle Leaving and Returning to Ireland which simply said “If you plan to leave and come back to Ireland during your stay, you will have to prove to an immigration officer that you have a valid reason to re-enter Ireland every time you return”
There was absolutely nothing about the amount of time I’d get upon re-entry. This made further planning a little difficult. But this was only the beginning of my issues in Ireland.
Issues in Ireland: Immigration
By the time I landed back in Ireland, I was within my initial 90 days. I thought the Irish visa would work similarly to the Schengen Visa (despite Ireland not being in that region) by counting the number of days actually in the country.
I was wrong.
While I had 90 days regardless, and I technically only had 4 days left of my original 90!
So when I told the immigration officer I was planning on staying for a couple of months, he was not happy with that answer.
I was sufficiently confused as I had only actually spent a few weeks there. I tried tactfully asking questions to figure out how things work but still never really got a straight answer.
As I was reentering, and wanting to stay for a few months, I got grilled more than I usually would. More questions about where I’m staying, how I’m paying for it, what I’m doing, etc. He suggested I apply for a working holiday visa (something I didn’t really want to shell out 300 euros for).
After all this, he ended up ‘extending’ my entry permit for 60 days. This was a much bigger stamp than the original with a must leave date written in. I was also required to email this immigration officer once I booked my flight out of the country. There were also notes attached to my passport’s file now. Which is fine, but things are now less flexible, I still don’t understand how their visas work, but at least I got back into the country.
Coming and Going
During those sixty days, I had plans to go to Northern Ireland and Scotland. As these places are technically in the U.K. I wanted to know if leaving and coming back would affect anything.
Initially, we took a bus into Northern Ireland, and it was an open border. No passport checks. However, we took a ferry over to Scotland and were flying back into Ireland. More passport checks.
Wanting to know if this affected anything and how their immigration works in general (for future visits and my own curiosity), I emailed the general visa office and the immigration guy some questions along with my flight info.
I, in turn, received a strongly worded email that still had no straight answers in it. #frustrated. The email effectively said that you do not get a new 90 days within your initial 90 days (put that on the immigration site then!), that how long you stay in the state has no bearing on that 90 days (also not mentioned on the immigration site), and that “the question of entry for any individual, visa or
non-visa required is determined by the Immigration Officer at the time of the individual seeking leave to enter the State.”
In regards to my going to the U.K., all they mentioned about it was that “we cannot comment on the United Kingdom’s Immigration policy, however, all passengers landing in the Republic of Ireland whether it be from the United Kingdom or elsewhere must present to an Immigration Officer upon landing in Dublin Airport and seek a permission to enter the State.”
So, while they didn’t answer whether my lack of exit stamp from Ireland mattered, what I gathered from this email was that it is up to the immigration officer of the day whether or not you get to enter.
This lack of information made me mildly anxious while travelling and difficult to book further plans.
Entering Ireland, Part Two
When we flew back to Dublin from Edinburgh, the immigration officer I had was very friendly. He barely looked at my passport, and gave me a brand new 90 days!
This was despite the time frame being within my initial 60-day expansion. Regardless, I already had a flight booked to Canada at this time, and I was still worried about any possible notes on my passport, as the strongly worded email ended with “You have been directed on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality to leave the State on or before the date issued on your passport and the Border Management Unit shall liaise with the relevant airline to ensure you have left the State by the directed date of departure from the State on the 11th May 2017.”
So why did a get a whole new 90 days? This would’ve allowed me to stay until July! Why did this other immigration officer not mention it? Does this new 90 days negate the other 60 days or the email?
Despite only trying to get answers, my questions only lead to me having more questions. Not wanting to press my luck, I did still end up leaving Ireland in May. But for future visits, I’d love to know what my options really are.
Have you ever had border issues? Let me know if the comments below!
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