I am due to leave in 12 days for a trip to Miami for a conference on “Reconnecting 2016: celebrating shared Latino-Jewish Roots and Heritage” on Sept 7-8. How did I come to be involved in helping to organize this? Well. it’s a long story, but let’s say that my presumed Dutch-Sefardi roots led me to an interest in the so-called conversos, or marranos, or in Hebrew Anousim, those Jews who were forcibly converted to Christianity, but through 500 years have retained Jewish customs and many of whom are now reconnecting to their Jewish roots.
My son who lives in Livermore, California, warned me that I dare not step foot in the USA without visiting him. So I am also flying to CA for 3 days and going via Washington DC to see some friends, after all that’s where we lived for 30 years. So for my trip I started to get things together. I had reserved my flights back in June and now I gathered the other things one needs, my US passport being prime among them. I found it hidden away in a drawer, since I have not used it for several years. Imagine my horror when I opened it and found that it had expired in Feb 2015! OMG, what to do? I can’t travel on an expired passport and I had assumed it was still active since after all it had been a 10 year passport. But, time passes and things expire.
What to do? I immediately contacted my travel agent and also went into the US Embassy in Tel Aviv web site. I know it usually takes a minimum of 2 weeks to get a passport renewed. The site was very helpful and I managed to get an appointment, the first available, on Fri Sept 2 at 8 am, when I am leaving on Mon Sept 5 at 4.30 am, and they are closed Sat and Sun. This is indeed cutting it very close. Anyway I filled out the on-line form and noted all the directions about documents to bring and payment to be made. There was a note about emergency situations and an e-mail address to contact the American Citizen’s Services at the Embassy. So I wrote to them and explained my drastic situation.
I also have passports from Israel and the UK (where I was born) so I naively thought that I could travel on them if necessary. But, not so, an Israeli passport needs a visa to the US that takes up to a month to get. But, my travel agent told me that on a British passport you can get a visa waiver called an ESTA (don’t ask). So I thought I would try to apply for that, but it’s not so easy. While I was doing this, I received a reply from the US Embassy, saying that they would issue me a temporary passport that I can travel with when I come there for my appointment. What a relief!
In reply I mentioned that I was also trying to get an ESTA on my British passport as a back-up. Then I got a reply that a US citizen cannot enter the USA on a foreign passport, it is illegal. So scratch that idea. Anyway, I won’t need that because they confirmed they will issue me a legal temporary US passport on the day of my appointment. I will be so happy. But, stay tuned. I’m hoping for the best outcome.