Adjusting the mirrors in our 4×4 after dropping my husband at work, the realisation suddenly dawns on me, I exist.
For the last two months of our adventure in the States, I’ve been without authorisation to work (EAD) and without a social security number. In the U.S., I was a nobody.
On Friday evening my husband returned home and handed me the little piece of plastic that opens up my world to independence again. It was my EAD – my authorisation to work in the US. This tiny little card means I am able to earn a living in what is now my home country.
So, today, EAD in hand, I came first thing to the Social Security Office to apply for my SS# and with it gain my true US identity.
As I walked along the corridor, the airy freshness of the building gave me a sense of comfort, almost as though I was being welcomed into the country. A stark contrast from our experience at the U.S. Embassy in London where we applied for our visas.
I walked into the SS admin office and, apart from the customary references to the patriotic nature of the US, the office felt much like any government office I’ve visited in the UK. With its rows of chairs, stiff seats, and the obligatory authority figure sat at the front desk, watching us in case we stepped out of line.
The one thing that struck me as strangely different were the various conversations being struck up with strangers around the office. I witnessed three different sets of strangers start conversations with one another in the 15 minutes I waited. That’s three more than there would be in any UK government office. It made me realise at least one of the differences I’ll come up against as a worker in the United States. People here like to talk and, as a natural introvert, I think that’s going to be one of the biggest hurdles I’ll face. Maybe that’s why the Americans drink so much coffee. Now where’s that Starbucks.
My number was called, and I went to the service desk. We exchanged pleasantries and the guy looked at me, puzzled. I felt a sinking feeling wondering what I could possibly have done wrong. I’d checked all of my documents, twice, and apart from the minor run in I had with the school bus a few weeks back, I’d been a model citizen.
“You know you could have applied for your SS# as soon as you got here right?”
“I could?! I thought I had to wait for my EAD??”
“Nope, on an L2 Visa you have all sorts of rights.”
“Wow, that’s news to me. Does that mean I could have worked?”
“Yes, I think think so.”
“Hmm, I may just avoid telling my husband about that!”
So, it seems I may have managed to wangle a two-month unexpected holiday! Although, when we read about the rules attached to my visa we were strongly advised to wait for the EAD, so I’m still pleased we waited; I think it’s best to be safe than sorry.
Either way, I don’t think I was mentally ready to work until now. The time to fix up our home and learn a bit about the local area have been invaluable and I’m so grateful for it.
Despite the work revelation, the guy processing my documents was friendly and welcoming with lots of stories to tell and plenty of interest in my UK background.
Ultimately the experience was a positive one, but now I can’t help having mixed feelings about my new status. Of course I recognise I’m not a US citizen by any stretch of the imagination; I am British and always will be even if I did ever get as far along the road as having US citizenship. But, there is still something very odd about being handed documents which give you an identity in another country; identity as something other than just a Brit working in Britain.
I feel a mixture of excitement, trepidation, fear, eagerness, sadness, loss, and gain, with an odd longing to understand where is now home. Today, something changed. A new adventure began.