When I flew from Toronto to Berlin in January, I had no idea I was breaking the law.
On the same day I found out, I booked a last minute flight from Frankfurt to Toronto.
I had less than 48 hours to pack my life into a suitcase before I flew home. Home home.
Even though I’d just been home! I’d spent three weeks in Toronto over the Christmas holidays and I flew back to Germany via Berlin in early January.
I had only been back across the pond for a month before I was told I had to leave.
Yes, I was told I had to leave. ASAP. And it was an ugly feeling that I don’t wish upon anyone.
It kind of felt like someone had abruptly slapped me on the face, only the pain wasn’t physical. I was straight up shocked.
The German authorities actually gave me two options: stay, incur a fine and risk being charged or leave and they’d pretend it hadn’t even happened.
We obviously know which option I took.
How could I have been so naive? I felt embarrassed and ashamed.
Ironically, it was all because I had booked an appointment at the foreigners’ office in town to find out about German work permits. At that appointment I was told that it was illegal for me to be in the country.
Good thing they caught it though. If not, I’d still be in Germany right now oblivious to the fact that I was an illegal alien.
‘The truth is, I just didn’t know.’
I won’t lie to you – tears were shed. Oh, were they shed.
But I was flying to Toronto via Iceland before I even had the chance to stay miserable.
The truth is, I just didn’t know.
I knew that as a Canadian citizen, I was only allowed to visit Germany as a tourist for 90 days. But I didn’t know that this meant 90 days within a 180-day period.
I assumed that as long as I flew out of Germany (or out of the Schengen area, to be precise), when I re-entered, the 90-day tourist visa began again. This was a very ignorant assumption.
Because I had already been in Germany for 90 days (September–December) last year, I legally wasn’t allowed to re-enter the country until at least mid-March.
In other words, when I went home for the holidays in December, I should have just stayed. I should not have flown back to Germany so soon.
How did I slip through the cracks? Why didn’t the Canadian authorities flag this when I flew to Germany in January? I’ll have to do more research to find out.
At the end of the day, it’s no one’s fault but my own.
And no one is above the law. I get it.
So much for globalization, eh?
Good ol’ Deutschland
I know what you might be thinking – that being banned from Germany for 90 days isn’t that big of a deal. But I have a close relationship with ‘Schland.
I lived there for four years. I have family there. I used to have a valid work permit there (it expired in late 2015 when I left Germany for a year to study in the UK). I feel at home there.
So it was hard for me to accept that I wasn’t welcome – albeit temporarily – in a country so dear to my heart. It felt weird.
Especially because I have such liberal views and an international outlook on life.
Also, though I hate to admit this, having to go back home honestly felt for me like taking a step back.
Toronto aka The 6ix
Don’t get me wrong, I represent #the6ix anywhere and everywhere I go. But I haven’t actually lived in Toronto for six years! I’ve only ever been back for visits and even then, I’ve never stayed longer than 3-4 weeks.
So truth be told, I had mixed feelings about going back. The fact that I’d been away for so long also made me anxious.
Would I like it? Would I feel out of place? Would the car reliant, suburban, North American lifestyle annoy the hell out of me?
It didn’t matter anyway because I had nowhere else to go.
‘It’s all finally sunk in.’
Fast forward to today.
I’m back and I’m back with a vengeance. It’s all finally sunk in.
I decided that I’d be an idiot if I didn’t turn this situation into an opportunity. With all the craziness going on in the world right now, especially regarding immigration, I should be thankful that I even have somewhere to go home to and consider myself privileged to call Canada home.
So I am taking the bull by the horns.
This is my chance to rediscover the city where I’m from, to reconnect with old faces and meet new, like-minded people too. A clean, fresh slate.
The day after I was at the foreigners’ office, I facetimed my parents and told them I’d be coming home for at least three months. At the time I was still pretty bummed out about it, so I’ll never forget my mom’s reaction.
“Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy,” she said.
Well, if it makes my mom happy that I’ll be back for a little while, it really can’t be that bad after all.
Get in touch
Are you a Canadian citizen who has had strange visa issues while abroad? Or have you, too, unintentionally become an illegal alien somewhere? If so, I’d love to hear from you.
I’d like to look at this topic in-depth, find out if it’s a common occurrence and if so, whether the Canadian government is doing anything to prevent or address it.
Please feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.