Maybe most ExPats don’t try to re-establish themselves in their country of origin; maybe (probably) things are getting worse; coming back in 2001 from 3.5 years in the Peace Corps was far easier than returning from a 3 year Post-Doc in England in 2017. It is always expected that getting yourself set up in a new country is difficult but I had no idea how hard it would be to re-gain a basic life back in the U.S. As it is cathartic for me to write out my frustrations, maybe someone with similar circumstances will also be able to benefit from these shared experiences.
First off to live in the U.S., even temporarily, you need health insurance. Your finances would be quickly dissolved if something happens like you get in an accident or even get a bad case of the flu. Of course, the Affordable Care Act relies on a U.S. citizen’s paying of U.S. taxes. Until returning back and attempting to sign up for insurance, I (ignorantly!) did not realize that U.S. citizens are required to at least file at tax return even if we haven’t made a single USD cent. Fortunately, the good folks at the IRS were kind enough to guide me through the process of filing three years of out of the country back taxes! Also fortunately, I was able to sign up for insurance (albeit not cheaply without the assistance of a tax buffer!) though I had passed the deadline to sign up. The NHS had taken such good care of me that I wasn’t in need of any medications or check ups urgently, but neglected dental care/coverage was an issue. Unfortunately (though reasonably), many insurance companies have a waiting period for costly services but at least I am covered for the time-being in case of an accident. First hurdle cleared!
The next issue, that which I am currently dealing with, is a driver’s license. I brought my bike back in the hopes of avoiding the whole single-driver transport issue but sadly I am reminded of the futility of attempting to rely on U.S. public transportation or even safe cycle lanes. I have managed to get around ok since March but have had a lot of help from friends and family and now would really like to make a solo trip for Memorial Day (I had honestly lost track of US holidays even!) to a location that would be difficult if not nearly impossible to attempt on a bike. However, in order to obtain a valid driver’s license without a current, unexpired driver’s license, one needs (at least in my state) two current forms of picture ID (a passport is insufficient), proof of insurance (even if you don’t have your own car), plus proof of address and social security number. Not to mention that I also have to re-take the driving test. And, not only that, but I have the addition of the name change to the married name. The latter would not have caused any additional hassle except that the marriage certificate was issued outside of the United States, so the DMV would not honor it. I learned this all today as I arrived for my appointment at the DMV, having studied last night for the written test, only to be told to go wait at the (thankfully) adjacent Social Security Office (though they don’t take appointments) to officially change my name on my Social Security Card. Though the process there was actually quite efficient and painless, I now have to wait 24 hours for the new card to be active to return to the DMV to take the now quite anticipated driving test. I feel all of 16 again (this being the location of my original test) and I do hope I pass! I also do really hope this helps or saves someone else some time or at least commiserates someone else’s experience. I can only begin to imagine how difficult this must be for those entering the States for the very first time, those whose native language is not English, those who have strict full-time working hours, those with dependents who need constant looking after, and/or all of the above. My heart goes out to you and *when* my husband does finally make his way here, we will be right there with you!
Update: New SS card and DL are in the mail! Hooray! Thanks for everyone’s help and words of encouragement!