Friday, March 4, 2016

Returning Home to the USA


The five month anniversary of our arrival in Spain found us returning to the United States and today marks the 6 month anniversary of our departure from the US, the first time. We haven't given up and called it quits yet. José shouldn't be outside of the United States for more than 6 continuous months or it puts his application for US citizenship at risk. He can only be outside of the United States for 18 months out of the 36 months needed before he can apply for citizenship based on marriage to a US citizen. If he stays out for the 10 months straight, they (USCIS) can reset our 3 year clock and we'd have to start all over from the beginning. Time is not a luxury we have though. We need to petition Michel so he can enter before he turns 18 years old, therefore becoming an automatic US citizen.
So based on an immigration lawyer's advice, I started looking for flights to send José back to the United States and take Erika with him. José was still very nervous about passing through US immigration because he gets pulled into secondary inspection every time and his fear is that they are going to take away his green card if he makes a mistake or gives them the wrong answer.

I live and breathe via Google Flights these days whenever I need to shop for any flight. You can put in any airport for the departure location but the best part comes to the destination. I can type in MAD (Madrid) to Europe along with the dates that I'm looking for and it will give me the ticket costs for hundreds of cities. Most of our vacations have been booked based on the cheapest plane ticket combined with a lodging cost that falls within our budget. I was using this same method while searching for tickets for Jose and Erika. I typed in Madrid to North America and by some sheer miracle, I found roundtrip tickets from Madrid to Calgary, Alberta, Canada for only $381 each!! A quick chat with José and Kara (the credit card owner) and we were going home! We told some people but kept it a secret on Facebook and didn't tell my mom, tío Alberto, Justin, or the neighbor girls. In fact, we didn't even tell our girls until the weekend before we left so they could have time to pack up their bags.

The last day of my first semester classes was Wednesday February 3rd so I bought our tickets leaving on the 4th. Since Calgary is a 13 hour drive from our home, I had to factor a rental car into the equation. Most credit cards only cover the insurance on a rental car for a maximum of 15 days so I based the length of our trip on that amount of days. We arrived in Calgary, Alberta, Canada on February 4th and counting 15 days out put our return for Thursday February 18th. This meant that I would be missing the first day of classes for my Syllabus Design class and the girls would miss ten days of school and we'd all miss the Spanish Carnaval!
On Thursday February  4th, we caught a 4am shuttle bus to the airport and checked in for our 6:15am flight to Frankfurt, Germany. The first leg was serviced by Lufthansa and we were served breakfast and relaxed for the 2 1/2 hour flight. We had an hour and a half layover there and the German immigration people never once showed a smile as they checked our passports and asked for our Spanish residence cards. Germany is known for following the Schengen Zone rules and counting down the days you have been present and preventing you from returning if you have overstayed by too long or charging a fee. We  haven't done either thankfully. No more immigration drama in our lives I hope!
Now the flight from Frankfurt to Calgary was the perfect flight that you will forever after be comparing all other flights to. It was serviced by Air Canada and it was amazing. The four of us were seating in the middle section of the plane which is four across so we weren't divided at all. When we boarded in the airport, the attendant told us to come forward and board when they called for families with small children. We obviously don't have any of those anymore but she wasn't concerned at all. Everything was complimentary including two meals, snacks, an ice cream cup, and beer and wine! The onboard entertainment was great and it made a 10 hour flight so much better. I would fly with them again in a heartbeat and of course, we would be in 15 days.
Thanks to the time change, we landed in Calgary just after noon local time so our Thursday was actually 32 hours long! The Enterprise rental pickup went smooth and easy, all of the luggage fit into the 2016 Mitzubishi Lancer with one suitcase going in the back with the girls. The scenery was gorgeous as we drove south and crossed over from Alberta into British Columbia. My goal was the first night was to get us, and José, across the border and sleep in the United States. Keep in mind that my internal clock was running 9 hours later so I was running on adrenaline and No-Doz. It was dark by the time we reached the Canadian-United States border at Eastport, ID/Kingsgate, BC. The immigration agent was the nicest fellow and after asking us a couple questions about why we were Americans driving a Canadian plated car, he warned us to be careful for deer on the next stretch of the road and that was it. José was in complete shock that an employee of the US Border Patrol could actually be a decent human being. We made it to Bonner's Ferry because I found us a super budget motel to crash in. By 7:30pm local time, we were fast asleep without a care in the world. [Dates of Travel: February 3-4, 2016]

1 comment:

  1. Glad everything is working out. I do love to see your post and it gives me hope that one day Jesus's will be able to just visit the states to see his family in Chicago. But we have decided that we are going to live here in Mexico and just visit family in the states.

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