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Registering with the Garda National Immigration Bureau in Dublin - dealing with the bureaucracy of being an immigrant

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GNIB registration card

I have my GNIB registration card – all the legal bureaucracy is now over with!

The GNIB is the Garda National Immigration Bureau, and pretty much any non-Irish national staying in Ireland for longer than the standard tourist Visa limitations has to go to their office on Burgh Quay and register with them. They issue you a card to carry around in your wallet, to show to the people in the airport when you re-enter the country, and to provide to employers who want verification that you can work legally. My understanding is that it’s basically a residency card.

I had to get one when I lived here in Dublin as a student in 2008. Then, I was unprepared for how long it would take and missed several lectures, sitting in the waiting room for hours. I passed the time studying for a Russian exam (on which I did shockingly poorly, I remember), much to the puzzlement of those sitting around me.

This time around, I was in and out in just about three hours – half the time I was expecting (I think my memory has embellished the actual wait period I experienced last time). I took my ticket, which said I was 65thin line, and sat down with a book and headphones. But there were so many interesting people streaming by to look at! And every few minutes one of the GNIB employees would attempt, sometimes haltingly, sometimes garbled in a big rush, to pronounce the name of the next person whose card was ready. Just in case the pronunciation was unintelligible to the person whose name it actually was, the announcer noted their nationality as well. And there were people from all over the world. Mauritius, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, China, Jordan, Iraq. To my surprise, the entire time I was there I only heard one other “U.S. national” called out.

I did overhear a few other Americans though. One family was explaining their situation to the worker behind the glass – they had come over to work on some project and apparently hadn’t had things explained to them properly. “We didn’t know we had to get a Visa, is there anything we can do? We need to be able to stay longer to finish the job!” And I saw one American man hold his phone up to the glass to show a photo to the woman helping him. “This is why I’m staying. She’s two weeks old today.”

When it was my turn, I showed the lady helping me my work permit and my passport, and paid the heartbreakingly large fee. She sat wordlessly, tapping things into the computer after she scanned my passport. She must have been looking at a record of all my past entries to the country, because she broke the several minutes of silence by saying “You come in and out a lot don’t you?” I smiled and nodded. “Do you like Ireland, yeah?” (It’s been my experience that the Irish are thoroughly perplexed as to why one would leave America to come to Ireland.) “Irish boyfriend,” I said. “Ah. That makes sense then.” Ha.

She then took me behind the counter and took my fingerprints on a very big machine. Sitting and waiting for another thirty minutes for the card to be printed, I teasingly texted my mom “Your baby girl was just fingerprinted!” This is the rest of the exchange:

Mom: WHAT???
Me: Haha, I’m getting my residency card. I’m at the immigration office.
Mom: Ahh… I see. I thought (not really) maybe you were so tired of being poor that you filched some expensive grape tomatoes or chocolate or something and got caught!
Me: OMG what an assumption!

The main thing that ran through my mind as I sat and waited and looked around in that room, was how comparatively easy I have it: I speak the language fluently; I know what questions to ask, who to ask, and what the answers mean; I’ve lived here before and know my way around; I can visually blend into the crowd here; I have friends who are natives to this country, and they and their parents are available to me for support and explanations; I am responsible only for myself, not a whole family. I really have no right at all to moan about the hassles and complications of these processes. I was impressed, thinking how much more difficult it probably was for most of the other people in the room, and how much harder they had to work to make sure they got everything right. I wondered what it was that made each of them willing to do this and to leave their homes. I wish them all the best of luck!

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