I’ve been strategically waiting until there was no way I would go to jail or be banned from the UK to tell you this story.
I’m thinking that since I’ve been home for one month + one week, now is an okay time.
Thesis statement: In October, Scotland tried to deport me.
If you’ll recall, during the latter half of October, I spent a weekend in Prague with some of my dearest college friends who live there now. These people.
A simple mistake I made is I thought, “Oh, I’m just hopping to another EU country… no biggie.” So I didn’t bring my folder of paperwork [bank statements, printed flight info, etc.] with me to Prague. It was just a weekend visit between two friendly European countries.
Well, I had a lovely time in Prague and landed back in Edinburgh on Monday night around 9:30pm. There are two lines at customs- EU residents and other. In our entire flight of people, there were only two ‘other’ – me and a blonde gal. The blonde gal went through the line and then it was my turn.
I stepped up to the gentleman at customs. We’re gonna call him Richard. I’m not going to actually call him by the name on his nametag because a) you wouldn’t believe me and b) it is a cuss word and you’ll think he totally earned the nickname. Anyways, Richard.
Richard looks through my stuff and says, “How long have you been in the UK?”
I say, “Since July.” Which is a totally true and perfectly legal answer.
See, there is a rule that you can be a tourist for up to 6 months out of a 12 month period without having a visa. Since I was only going to be in Scotland 5 months and 28 days, I did not have a visa.
He shows me on my passport that back in February, when I returned from my month in the UK, I did not get a stamp on my passport saying I landed in Atlanta.
So pretty much, it looks like I’ve been living in Scotland without a visa since January [because I have an entrance to the UK stamp in January and an entrance stamp in July, but no exit stamp.]
Not good, my people. Not good.
Richard says, “I’m sorry. But I’m going to have to send you back.”
And I’m like, “BACK!!?? I WASN’T EVEN HOME! I WAS JUST IN PRAGUE FOR THE WEEKEND! I HAVEN’T BEEN IN AMERICA SINCE JULY! BUT I WAS IN AMERICA IN JULY! I HAVE A FLAT FULL OF STUFF AND I DON’T KNOW HOW MY FLATMATES WILL PACK IT ALL AND I AM ALLOWED TO BE HERE AND PLEASE DON’T SEND ME TO AMERICA TONIGHT!”
Then he asked to see my paperwork [yep, the paperwork I mentioned above that I didn’t have].
Then he asked for details of what I would be doing every.single.day. for the last four weeks of my time there. I answered with a shaky voice.
Then he asked for my flatmate’s phone number.
He tried to call her and for some unknown reason, it wouldn’t go through.
So he comes back to me and says, “Ms. Downs, that is a fake number and both you and I know it. Please give me a real number of someone I can reach.”
[PS- he copied my flatmate’s number OUT OF MY PHONE so obviously, it is the same one I used every day. Crazy stuff.]
At this point, I am sweating like I’ve run a half-marathon, I can’t exactly breathe, and I’m shaking like a polaroid picture because I am working through in my mind what happens to a person when they get deported.
Because Richard is about to deport me. For realz.