Hello everybody. I am finally back in the US and cosily settled in cold, cold Troy that is slowly recovering from the effects of the scarily named Polar Vortex. Antarctica trip was awesome. No, that just doesn’t quite cut it; English needs a better word. It was truly amazing. So many stories, so many great moments, quite a few adventures, and not least, the people, I just do not know where to start. I have documented most of the trip and after I finish sifting through the 2000 or so photographs I’ll update the blog. Right now, however, is a story of my reentry in the United States of America.
On 28th December 2013 I landed in Newark airport at 7.22 p.m on flight number 1970 operated by Copa Airlines from Panama City. The point of origin of the travel was Buenos Aires, Argentina. After a short wait in the immigration line I was called towards the immigration officer. I do not remember the counter number, however.
I handed over my passport and I-20 to the officer. The officer spent a minute or so perusing my passport, sifting through the pages and inspecting quite a few of the visa and immigration stamps in my passport, in particular the Tanzanian visa from 3 years ago, the Argentinian visa and the stamp from Esperanza Base, Antarctica. He then took a pen and scribbled something on my passport.
He immediately looked up, as apologetically as possible after what looked like a tiring day, and said, “sorry, I accidentally cancelled your good visa!!!”. I wasn’t sure how to respond and before I could say anything he asked, “do you plan on traveling outside the country anytime in the next 6 months?”. The visa would have anyway expired in June 2014 and I wasn’t planning to travel but instead focus on graduating as soon as possible. When I replied in the negative, he said “good” and then proceeded to write below his “cancelled” note that it was done in error. He wrote the date as well. At that point I was too tired to think about it and since he was not denying me entry I let it go. After the fingerprint scan and immigration stamp he apologized again and allowed me to leave.
Since I am on F1 visa and my I-20 graduation date is in May 2016 I can legally be in the United States. However, if I leave the country, upon return I’ll be denied entry unless I renew the visa. I hope to travel to Africa and India in August, and if so I’ll renew my visa at the Chennai Consulate. So as of now, fortunately, there is nothing to be concerned about, as confirmed by the International Students office at RPI.
There is one thing, though, that rankles me. Of all the pages the officer had to stamp he chose the one from Antarctica. That was a souvenir, an unexpected stamp that is quite rare. I was hoping to keep that page pristine, free of any other stamp. Oh, well!!!