‘I burst into tears and booked flights home.’ Irish in US on the lifted travel ban

Irish will be allowed to enter the US if they are fully vaccinated following rule change

Emma McGuire: ‘I can’t wait to soak up Dublin at the best time of year’

Emma McGuire
New York

After doing two J1s in Newport, Rhode Island and New York City, I knew once I graduated college I wanted to spend a year in the States. In 2017 I came over for the year and four years later I'm still here. I've been working as a Graphic Designer for the since graduating and for the past year and a half I've been working from home with my boyfriend and our dog from our 600 square feet apartment.

When Trump announced the lockdown in March 2020 I panicked worried that my grandparents or parents would get sick and I wouldn't be able to visit home. As the pandemic ranged and the numbers grew both in New York and in Ireland the worry and guilt of being so far from Dublin sat heavy on me. The day my mom rang me and told me that my grandparents got vaccinated was the first time in a year I felt I could breathe again. It's been hard knowing that if I leave New York and go home I have to either quarantine somewhere for two weeks or can't fly back at all.

Yesterday morning when it was announced the ban was being lifted, I immediately burst into tears and booked my flights home for Christmas. This will be the first time I’ve been home for Christmas in three years and I can’t wait to soak up Dublin at the best time of year. Luckily my bosses are understanding and are allowing me to work from Dublin for about a month so I can spend time with my family. I can’t wait to hug my parents at the airport and make a show of myself crying in front of everyone. It’s been two years since I stepped on Irish soil.


Eamonn Toland
New York

This is transformational. Like thousands of others, I live legally in the US with my wife and son as visa holders, but we don't have Green Cards. This summer we visited friends and family in Ireland for the first time since the lockdown while I was promoting my new book, The Pursuit of Kindness. In order to return to the US after a week in Ireland, we had to spend 14 days outside the country (in Croatia and Turkey) even though we had all been fully vaccinated in New York before we left. I then had to explain to US Immigration when we returned why I didn't have a stamp in my Irish passport when we landed in Croatia. We were very lucky we could afford to tag a 14-day holiday onto our trip, but for many people, including ourselves, this will mean the first Christmas we can celebrate with family in Ireland since the lockdown began.

Sharon Jorde
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

For us it will mean everything. Since my parents have last visited us we have adopted three children who they have never met except on video chat. Our youngest has interstitial lung disease which means she is immunocompromised and hasn’t been okayed to travel, but now that my parents can come to visit us. Not being able to have them come over or go home has been the most isolating feeling in the world. I’m so lucky that I was able to go home for Christmas 2019 or I don’t think I would have made it through the last few years. You don’t realise how far 3,900 miles (6,275km) is until you can’t make the trip, or how inadequate video calls are to keep your family up to date on your life. My mom was on the visa website first thing this morning planning a trip in November.

Ronan Kelly
Washington DC

Until the pandemic hit, I don’t think I genuinely appreciated the fortunate existence I lived where I could travel back and forth to Ireland as needed in a small number of hours. Upon return, the usual questions were asked “When did you get home?”, “How long are you back for?” and “When will you be back next?”. Working on a visa with an Irish company, I can leave but have no prospect of directly re-entering due to the border closure so that last question isn’t asked anymore as it’s too difficult to judge and too painful to answer.

As US citizens and green card holders have been able to travel to Europe this summer, I begrudgingly remind my colleagues and friends here why I can't just go home for a trip or have my family visit me if I'm so homesick. To get me through, I've tried to act that life has stood still back home and that everything has remained the same since Christmas 2019 so there's nothing to miss. But that idealised vision has been pierced by life events such as my own engagement, my brother buying a home and just the fact that my parents will be that little bit older when I see them next.

When you make that life-defining decision to leave Ireland for other shores, you did so with the knowledge that you could travel home and return to your new life abroad without issue. I think the past 18 months have shattered that narrative as there is a feeling that this could happen again. Everyone understands why I’m still choosing to be here but that doesn’t mean I’m not battling with the urge to hop on the next flight home for that long-awaited reunion every single day.

Orla Bowman
Cincinnati, Ohio

Orla Bowman: ‘Our world has fundamentally transformed into a place where nothing seems certain anymore’

I’m Irish and I have an 11-year old, USA-born daughter who, in times BC (before Covid), had been to Ireland 23 times. We used to go as often as we could to spend time with family in Dublin. You can imagine how tough it was to suddenly be unable to travel home at a moment’s notice! Coupled with the removal of the option to travel, was the overwhelming anxiety of the unknown and fear of loved ones far away becoming ill and not being able to help. In all, it was after 16 months and three cancelled trips that we finally landed on Irish soil.

Everyone everywhere has been irreversibly changed by the pandemic, even if they don’t realise it yet. Our world has fundamentally transformed into a place where nothing seems certain anymore. It made me realise how far away I really am, in practical terms, after all of the years of taking it all so very much for granted!

Nicola Gryson

Nicola Gryson: ‘Nearly two years after getting married we’re finally going to be able to start our life as a married couple together’

I got married to my husband, Alex, on February 29th, 2020 and we even managed to go on honeymoon to Rome two days later. My husband lives and works in Chicago and we had been doing long distance. The plan, after we got married, was that we'd finally be together. When we got back from the honeymoon, he returned to Chicago and I applied for a spouse visa at the US embassy. This got cancelled and rescheduled several times over the past 18 months. I finally have my appointment at the end of September, and nearly two years after getting married we're finally going to be able to start our life as a married couple together?