You may or may not already know that I in fact have two nationalities. Whilst I try to use this to my advantage in the oversaturated blogging community as a way to stand out a little from the crowd, it doesn’t often come up that much in real life conversation. But when it does, people are so intrigued that it usually comes with 20 questions attached to it. I get that having two nationalities probably sounds a lot more glamorous and privileged than it actually is, but I thought I would share what it’s really like. I can definitely tell you this…it’s one of those things that is a blessing and a curse at same time. Before I get into all that, I will first explain my situation.
It all started with the military life
I was born in California, to British parents, whilst my Dad was posted oversees to the US with the Royal Air Force. Being born in the US means that I was granted birthright citizenship, which is the automatic receiving of citizenship due to birth right laws, regardless of the nationality of your parents. At just age one my family moved back to the UK and so I gained my British citizenship then. Lets just get something straight before I really get into it…I wasn’t born in the 90210 zip code, or the likes of those cool, rich, trendy areas such as Calabasas and Newport Beach. Remember, my Dad was in the military, meaning desert land with acres of space for a military base. I was born in the small town of Ridgecrest, in Kern County (Dukes of Hazard land for anyone that doesn't know) and my Dad was stationed at the China Lake Navel Air Weapons base. For those that don’t know where the heck that is...Ridgecrest sits north of Barstow which is a place you passby when driving from LA to Vegas on the I-15. The tallest building in Ridgecrest is probably the Springhill Suites by Marriot hotel, which is fairly new may I add, and has just three floors. I told you it wasn’t all glamorous.
I'm an American too, Mr. Trump.
The official term given to having two nationalities is dual-nationality, making me a dual-national. Don’t get me wrong, it is a wonderful feeling of having the freedom to travel between the US and UK as and when I please, cutting out the long queues at passport control as I go. Not to mention it gives me the freedom and opportunity to live and work in two countries, and up until that dreaded Brexit vote, I was part of the EU too. I get that not everyone has these opportunities, so I am privileged in this respect, but being a dual national is definitely no walk in the park. It is a privilege that you have to work to maintain. Whilst it can never be taken away (unless you fully commit to one country and revoke the other), it is that grey area where you don’t always fit the criteria, leaving you rather baffled and confused during lifes simple things. It can also make the more difficult times in life even more difficult.
Two passports are not always better than one
You'd think travelling between the US and the UK would be easy peasy, lemon squeeze now, right. Wrong. There is the need for both passports, meaning I can’t forget either. Show the UK one on departure and hide the US one away. When I land In the US, hide the UK one and whip out the US passport. Repeat the same but in reverse on the return flight home. I never get used to this. Kind of feels a little bit dishonest. But, I have read recently that it’s actually illegal to enter the US on any other passport than the US one, if you have it. So I got to do it. This also means if, god for bid myself and the bf (or any travelling partner on another passport) get into any legal bother, I will be treated as a citizen and he (they) will be treated as a foreigner. When it comes to booking a trip to the US there's the worrying about not being let onto the flight without an ESTA, even though you are a US citizen too, so you just spend the $14 and apply for one anyway. Better to be safe than sorry.
It's always a game of question time
Passport control can at times, prove very difficult. What I said about skipping queues at passport control and sailing on by. Yeah, that doesn't always happen. If I am travelling with the bf and he is on a new ESTA, we will split at passport control and take separate queues. He will take the foreigner route and I will enter the queue for US citizens. However, if we are arriving into an airport that operates passport control with just self-service machines, like JFK in NYC…yeah that one time was a real pain in my ass,…I followed the automated procedure to then be told I needed to queue and speak to an official anyway. Cue the dreaded 20 questions. Where were you born? Why were you born there? When was the last time you visited the US? When was the last time you lived in the US? Why are you here now? The longer I am waiting to be approved, and the more questions I get asked, the more nervous I get, my cheeks blush, I get the sweaty upper lip, and the more incriminating I make myself look. Why do I do this, I have nothing to hide! But it’s very intimidating.
They make you work for it
But before all that, there’s the hassle of applying for the damn passports in the first place. To apply for a UK passport I have to send off my US passport too. I had to do this just before my recent Vegas trip and I was petrified that my US passport would get lost in the post and I would never see it again. I really would be royally f**ked. But it’s the American passport that is the royal pain…it involves a trip to the US embassy in London to apply in person with the passport photos having been taken prior at a professional photographers! FYI…the photo size is different to those used at UK passport booths for British passports. Crazy, huh?! Thank god it only has to be done every 10 years, that’s all I can say.
Then there’s this thing called taxes
We all hate paying them, but dealing with two countries authorities on your case is annoying. I live and work in the UK so pay my taxes here. Sounds straight forward to me. Wrong. By law, it is required to complete an annual tax return to the US. In my case, I didn’t stick around long enough in the US to ever get issued with a social security number, which is their equivalent to a National Insurance number, so I don’t have to do this. At least I don’t think I have to. Again, it’s that grey area. Maybe after posting this, the authorities will hunt me down! But, what I do have to do is complete an annual form disclosing which country I pay my taxes to...I find that any American legislation is the most confusing thing to read and this form really does baffle me every single year. Fun Fact: the word "foreigner" in the US, is known as "alien". It also seems that now the UK is following their lead with this type of form as I have just received a re-worded, UK version to complete upon opening a new UK bank account. What. the. hell. I must say, that in all my years living in the UK, I have never had to justify the fact that I pay my taxes here, and here only…but now I do. Literally this letter said something along the lines of…"failure to disclose this information and we will have to report you to HRMC.” I’m thinking…disclose what, I have nothing to disclose. What are they going to do…arrest me? Deport me? I’m confused.
And the 8-hour time difference
Another thing to note, I still have a US bank account, so I have to remember around the same time every year to contact my bank and ask them to withdraw and redeposit $1 to keep the account active. Thank god for live chats these days to avoid the oversees phone charges. However, with this one, not having a social security number is a disadvantage as it is the most common of all US security checks. Mental note: always have other documentation to hand to prove my nationality and always check their opening times…there’s an eight hour time difference.
And with all these things to keep in mind, the bf still gets frustrated when I have the compulsion to double check, triple check, quadruple check every piece of documentation! Maybe I'm overreacting, but sometimes it does feel like a chore. It most definitely isn't all that glamorous, that's for sure.