Passports

Having three passports may seem excessive.

As a native-born Argentine with an Irish mother and a father who served in the British Army I have three nationalities. One is enough for most people, two if you are lucky but three is a bit excessive, don’t you think?

My first passport

Prior to that referendum in 2016, having a British passport granted free movement and eventual residency throughout Europe. DouDou and I had residency in Spain which we lost on our return to England so when we were pondering a new life in Galicia the question of residency and nationality raised its head.

I asked the Irish Embassy if they would recognise our marriage in Ezkurra and thus allow me to settle in Spain as an Irishman with my wife. They don’t register overseas marriages.

Then I discovered the Spanish government allows Latin Americans to gain residency after only one year and citizenship after five. I dug out my old Argentine passport and decided to renew it. The new ones are biometric so I had to go to Bristol and be filmed and finger-printed then wait for a couple of months. At last I got an email saying my identity card had been delivered by diplomatic courier and would I make my way to Three Kings Yard behind Bond Street tube station and collect it. My passport would follow.

So, in mid-pandemic I travelled to London and, at the appointed time, arrived at the Consulate clutching all our documents, passports, birth and marriage certificates, identity cards and anything else they might ask for. They handed over my brand spanking new biometric identity card and told me to buy a pre-paid envelope from the Post Office round the corner. This would be used to mail me my Argentine passport when it finally arrived. Oh, and no, they couldn’t register a foreign marriage at the Consulate. I would have to consult lawyers in Buenos Aires.

Clutching all my papers I slumped off to a pub for a sharp one, then to the Cork & Bottle for another, then Wax Chandlers Hall for a banquet. I awoke the next morning in Fradd’s pad feeling fragile, packed my stuff and headed off to catch my train to Grantham. Sitting on the top deck of the 188, I felt a slight queasiness come over me when I reached for my inside pocket where the passports had been. Empty.

I phoned Fradd. He searched my bedroom but found nothing. I hopped off the bus and caught a black cab parked outside the station. It wasn’t really black but bright yellow and the driver was called Dave. I know this because for the next two hours he drove me around London returning me to all the places I had visited the day before. I explained we were off to Mauritius in three weeks time and one of the missing passports belonged to my wife. He advised me to say I had been mugged. He took me to Charing Cross Police Station to report my loss. The woman on the desk said they don’t record lost passports even though the Passport Office requires an incident number. Dave eventually dropped me off at Paddington and charged me £80, gave me his phone number and told me to let him know how I got on. In return I gave him a twenty pound note.

DouDou accepted my apologies and we decided to apply for replacement passports on line. This involved cancelling the old ones which was surprisingly easy. Then my phone rang. It was Fraddy saying he had found our passports under the bed.

The Passport Office sent DouDou a tacky blue replacement within 2 weeks. The Irish Embassy replaced my passport a few days later. My British passport was delayed in Belfast so I flew to Mauritius on the Irish one. We returned six weeks later to find my Argentine passport had arrived in the post as well as a letter from the Passport Office in Belfast. As I was a dual national, please could I prove I wasn’t Miguel Esteban?

Still harbouring a desire to return to Spain, I consulted immigration lawyers in Barçelona. A £60 45 minute Zoom call with a Paraguayan immigration lawyer resulted in her telling me I needed to find a friendly policeman in Mojácar who would be willing to backdate our empadronamiento and restore our residency for the missing years since we left. Oh, and get friends who own property in Mojácar to vouch that we are living with them. And deposit 10,000 euros in a Spanish bank account. And take out full medical insurance for both of us. And if this means overstaying the 90 day limit, don’t worry about it; it’s a grey area and they don’t usually deport you.

Devon is looking beautiful in the Spring.

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