Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sworn in to the US of A

Today I went to my Citizenship Oath Ceremony in Houston. At 7am, I was sitting right there along with another 1600 applicants and their family guests waiting for the judge to hold a session and legally accept our applications.

I gotta tell you, it's been a very long and expensive road to being sworn as a lawful citizen. It all started in 1993 when my family and I emigrated from France to California in search of that American dream.

After 5 years of countless Employment Permits at $180 each person, lost files by the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service), my father decided to hire lawyer at $1000 to help expedite our case. We were finally granted Permanent Residency Status in September of 1999. The yearly trips to the INS office in Los Angeles were now over. We had our passports stamped by an Immigration officer and were legally now residents.

We had 5 years to wait before we could petition for our right to citizenship, but somewhere along the way, we got lazy and left it aside. Our resident card (green card) was good for 10 years, and we always figured we'd get it taken care of before then.

Well, we surely didn't. About 6 months before the card expired, my mom started pressuring my dad and I to start the citizenship process; her card expires in March of next year. I don't know why it's different if we all obtained residency on the same date. I decided to ask my bosses for a loan for my application, and because they were also naturalized citizens, they were more than willing to help. The cost? $750 for the application.

The citizenship process went by without a glitch for me. It took exactly 4 months from the time my application was received to the Oath Ceremony. In between, I had to go get fingerprinted, and then take the civics test and be interviewed by an officer a couple of months later. My father submitted his application about 45 days before I did, and was right on track as well until the USCIS (United States Citizenship Immigration Service as it is now called) subjected his application for further review. He claimed his taxes in California, but his permanent residence in Texas. Since he was living in California, he would have to apply to be sworn into California, which delayed everything. To date, he has not heard back from the USCIS and has had to renew his green card because it expires next week.

My mother and Sebastian offered to attend, but I knew it would be very long, so I told them not to bother. The ceremony began 3 hours after our appointment date that morning, and 1.5 hours later, we were waiting to be called according to Alien Number to obtain our certificates. I also took 5 minutes to register to vote.

I currently don't have the original Certificate with me and can't share it with you because I handed it over to the Post Office when I went to apply for a passport. YES! I'm finally able to obtain an American Passport. Cost? $100 for the book, and another $60 to expedite and get it back in 2 weeks since I will be traveling in one month.

So it's done. I'm finally one of you! One of my V.Ps at work smugly asked "And you're willing to go to war if need be?" "If that's what it takes to defend my country, I will."

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