DRIFTWOOD, Texas (KXAN) — A Central Texas pet boarder originally from the United Kingdom is being forced back to her home country for overstaying her visit. It all came down to a hiccup during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You’ll find Driftwood Kennels on a 13-acre patch of land in Driftwood. The property has been managed and owned by Joan Harrison for 15 years.
“Oh gosh, it’s my heart, it’s my world. It’s my everything,” said Harrison.
Harrison’s house also sits on the property that can house over 64 animals at a time.
“Some of the messages I’ve received, emails… everything has had me in tears. I didn’t realize how much of an impact I’ve made all of these years,” said Harrison.
On Saturday, Harrison is left packing up the 15 years of memories she’s made and saying goodbye to all of the animals and people she’s come to love.
“I have a visa that entitles me to own a business. If the visa disappears, then I have to give up the business. I know that I have to get a stamp in my passport every two years, but because of COVID and waiting for heart surgery, I couldn’t leave the country,” said Harrison.
During the pandemic, Harrison suffered two heart attacks and had to undergo heart surgery. Health and travel restrictions prevented her from doing her normal visits to family in the UK. It also prevented her from renewing her work visa, she says.
During a visit to the UK the week before spring break, Harrison got an awakening from the Department of Homeland Security. She had overstayed her visit by nearly six months.
“I was treated like an absolute terrorist and told they were going to send me on the next plane. My knees buckled up and I thought I was going to have a heart attack, then I was told I have 30 days to sell my business and leave,” said Harrison.
The Department of Homeland Security does allow people with these types of visas to renew online, but because Harrison says she’s always dealt with the process during her visits home, she was unaware that this was an option.
“I was told that ignorance is nothing in the law and that I should have known,” said Harrison.
Harrison now has 30 days to sell a business and pack up all of her belongings.
“I understand I have to leave, I have intentions of leaving… but 30 days isn’t enough,” said Harrison.
KXAN’s Kaitlyn Karmout reached out to the Department of Homeland Security to find out if there is any sort of resource for a situation like this. The DOHS has not gotten back to KXAN’s request.
An immigration lawyer told KXAN that if Joan stays past the 30 days, she could be deemed inadmissible into the U.S for the next three years.