Stuart and I made it to America the other day. Doesn’t sound that complicated. We fly around the world and between countries pretty regularly. He’s from the UK, I’m from the US. The two countries usually have a pretty open door policy between the two. So, what makes it worth writing a whole post about it on here? Let me introduce you to the “Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus”. For those that are following the governments guidelines and staying at home – good job! For those of us that have families in two countries (and after getting stuck on a cruise ship and having to fly home from Manila) it’s a bit more complicated and has resulted in more international flights (and quarantine time) during a pandemic than I ever thought I would take (but really, had I ever thought about flying during a pandemic, anyways?)
Globally there are an immense number of travel restrictions. The US restricted a lot of countries through Presidential Proclamations and this action, plus many a COVID hotspot in the US a whole bunch of countries pretty much did it right back to the US. While for some this has meant going months and months without seeing their significant others, for Stuart and I this has really just resulted in a more complicated border security process to get him into the US.
As luck would have it, the United Kingdom is still open for US citizens to come in, so for me to go to the UK was the same as usual. While at first glance that proclamation may look like Stuart can’t come to the US if you read all the way down to Sec. 2. Scope of Suspension and Limitation on Entry, you will note that Section 2 (a) (ii) states that the proclamation does not apply to “any alien who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;”. And, as we are married this includes Stuart, and this also makes him my alien. So, hoping that the immigration officials had some clue about the fine print of the proclamation we gave it a try.
We flew from Edinburgh (Glasgow was quite a bit more expensive this time, go figure) to Dublin and then Dublin to Boston. Dublin is a great airport to transit through to the United States because you go through U.S. Customs there, so when you land in the United States you can just grab your bags and go. In this situation it was also extra helpful because if they turned Stuart down he had only flown to Dublin and not all the way across to the United States.
When we landed in Dublin we proceeded to the U.S. Pre-clearance area. They do an additional security screening and pre-passport check and then we continued on to meet with the customs agent. We went up to the desk together. He asked us some basic questions, and then some clarification questions as people get confused when you say you aren’t a resident of the same country as your spouse. The questions were:
CBP Agent: How do you two know each other?
Us: We’re married.
CBP Agent: What is the purpose of your visit?
Me: Going to see my family
CBP Agent: How long are you going to be in the United States?
Stuart: Just over a month
CBP Agent: So you aren’t residents of the same country?
CBP Agent: So you just got married?
Us: No, a bit over a year ago.
CBP Agent: So, how does that work?
Me: He works at sea, usually 3 months on 3 months off.
CBP Agent: Oh, you work at sea. So what are your future plans?
Stuart: We’re working on it. The pandemic has made it hard to make much for plans.
CBP Agent: You have your marriage license?
Me: Yes, I have a copy of it.
CBP Agent: A copy of it? You don’t have the original?
Me: Well, not like a photocopy. I have the government issued one.
CBP Agent: Okay, good. I was trying to figure out if I had to take you to the next place or (looking at Stuart) say “time to say goodbye to your wife!”
I was nervous they weren’t going to let him in. We had a copy of the proclamation printed out with the section highlighted saying that he could go into the country with me, we had the marriage license, he had a valid ESTA , I knew that we had everything we needed but still I was so nervous. I hate getting called into the back room of customs areas.
So, naturally, the back room is where we went. It was where literally everyone that wasn’t from the US was for the two flights to the US going out of Dublin that day. We sat and waited for probably about 10 minutes. An agent called us up, took our marriage license to make a copy of and input the information from, asked us a couple questions (basically the same as the first guy), and then had us sit back down. Stuart reminded me that the first guy wouldn’t have brought us to the back room if it wasn’t going to be okay. Regardless, I was still nervous. We waited for probably another 5 minutes and then he called us up and sent us on our way.
The two agents we met with were nice, kind, and reasonable. They knew the rules and aside from simply doing their job, didn’t give us any issue. I just wish these travel restrictions were lifted so we didn’t have to go through all that and so all of our couple friends that aren’t married that are still separated can see each other again. It also reinstated that while to some “marriage is just a piece of paper” that piece of paper is what got my hubby into the country I’m a resident of. So while to us it’s more than a piece of paper, to the government it was the piece of paper that we needed.
After all the stress of it there wasn’t much fanfare. When we landed in Boston we had our temperatures checked but didn’t need to see an agent again. My alien and I grabbed our bags, hopped on the Dartmouth Coach, and made our way to Vermont to start yet another quarantine!