From Ellen, in Gdynia, Poland:
I remember the golden era of hijackings. It was standard operating procedure, upon gaining control of a flight, to collect the passports of the unfortunate passengers. In the years since I’ve traveled with two passports, I’ve reflected on this. Either one would be deeply unpopular with a terrorist…but both? I’d go out the window in such a situation.
So it’s struck me as being a disadvantage, carrying two passports. Only today have I learned an advantage of having two.
Before arriving in Poland, I was advised to play down my Israeli connections, play up the American, preferably enter with and use the U.S. passport for legal transactions. Exhausted by the months of putting together the move and weary from a sleepless night (somehow, almost every flight I’ve taken from Ben-Gurion Airport has departed at an ungodly hour), I automatically snapped open my Israeli passport when I arrived in Berlin. Cursing my forgetfulness, I naturally had to do the same crossing the border in Szchecin. Since this passport reflected entry, I used it to register temporary residency in Gdynia. Later, after visiting the U.S., I entered Warsaw on the U.S. passport.
A worker’s visa is a long, bureaucratic affair to arrange here. My part-time employer investigated the matter for me. Among other requirements, an employer must advertise the position for a month, ultimately proving that only a foreigner can fill the job. Noting the expense of time and money for both of us, she suggested I just cross a border and return when my three-month tourist visa expired. Fine, I thought. My friends and I began to plot a weekend in Berlin. Then it suddenly surfaced that the border I crossed had to be a non-EU country. OK: our plans switched to Vilnius. Interesting city none of us has visited, and much closer than Berlin. All of us, however, were sadly behind the times in our information: Lithuania, together with Latvia and Estonia, joined the EU in 2004!
I looked at my options. Kaleningrad is closest. But Russian visas are not just expensive, they won’t issue them unless you’re in your native country. Ukraine – distant. Norway, a possibility, though cheap flights are a matter of last-minute luck. I was feeling increased pressure about putting together a trip when an office representing foreigners in Poland informed me that, yes, an American passport was a problem. But with an Israeli passport, all I needed was a receipt or two showing I’d spent time in another country.
As it turned out, not even such a receipt was needed. I went to Gdynia City Hall accompanied by a friend. A pleasant office worker issued a residency permit through September in five minutes. She told us to visit an office in Gdansk in the next months, where a permit for five years could be granted. Five years! Even with all the time, money and red tape involved, a worker’s visa is good for only a year. I’m enormously relieved. Much as I love to travel, I’d rather do it when I have the time and ready cash. I’d love to see Ukraine, for instance, not just cross its border.
Most of all, I never want to approach being an illegal alien.
(Copyright 2008 by Ellen Dlott)