Immigration. It is a well-debated and hot topic issue in the United States. Many people don’t think about what all is involved when you hear the word immigration. Dealing with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is complex. A lot goes into becoming a United States citizen. There are two ways of obtaining US Citizenship: being born in the United States (or on U.S. soil) or becoming a citizen through naturalization. The second way is far less common, but this is a way for immigrants to become part of a great country.
On March 18th 2022, I officially became a U.S. citizen through naturalization. It was a long process, taking over 6 years. You are eligible for U.S. citizenship if you have been married to a U.S. citizen and have had permanent residency (a green card) for a minimum of 3 years. Otherwise (if not married to a citizen), you are eligible after 5 years of permanent residency. I didn’t apply for citizenship until I hit the 5 year mark, and one of the reasons is so that I didn’t have to show additional evidence about our marriage / family. The whole process of applying for citizenship and for them to process everything took nearly a year.
In July of 2021, I sent in form N-400, application for naturalization, together with copies of my current permanent resident (green) card. The wait had begun.
The next notice was the interview notice, which came in January of 2022. Unlike previous interviews, where my husband Travis was the sponsor for my green card, he did not have to come to this one. I had to prepare quite a few things before the interview. Unlike automatically becoming an American by being born on U.S. soil, for naturalization you need to know the answers to 100 civics questions about history and government. I spent a month studying and in February, when it was time for my interview, I headed downtown, prepared and knowing every answer to every question.
You also have to take an English “test” consisting out of 3 sections (reading, writing and speaking). The test was silly. For the writing part all I had to write was, “We pay taxes.” For the reading part of the “exam,” I had to read something along the line of, “I support the Constitution.” The last section was the comprehension/speaking part. That consisted of going over your citizenship application with the immigration officer and making sure all the information of the application was correct. If you understood and answered what the officer talked about, then you passed the English test. So that was part one of the interview: the English “test.”
For the second part of the interview, the civics test, you get 10 questions, and you have to answer 6 correctly. Since I answered the first 6 correctly, I only got the 6 questions.
Here are the six questions they asked me:
- “What is the capital of the state?”
- “What is one thing Benjamin Franklin was famous for?”
- “What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?”
- “Who is the Commander in Chief of the military?”
- “Name one of your state’s U.S. Senators”
- “Who is the Father of our country?”
In preparation for this interview, I discussed many of the questions with friends. A lot of them did not know the answers to many of the questions in the civics guide. If you want to learn something about America, and you’re curious to learn more about history and government, I definitely recommend that you take a look at the civics test that you take to obtain US citizenship, because you could learn a lot from it (me and my friends certainly did!).
Once I finished my English and civics test, the officer approved my application and told me what the next steps would be. I would get a notice in the mail with a date for my naturalization ceremony. That small ceremony would be at the immigration office, and I would get my naturalization certificate, say the oath of allegiance (not to be confused with the Pledge of Allegiance), and be sworn in as an American.
About a week before March 18th, I received my notice. I was very excited that the day was finally here! After such a long process, it was finally time for my ceremony and for me to become an American citizen. The ceremony was scheduled for 9:30 am but didn’t start until about 10:30 am, since all the people in the building first had to go through security (just like at the airport!), turn in all their green cards and immigration documents, receive their naturalization certificate, and get some information about how to apply for a passport, how to register to vote, etc.
At first I was sad that nobody was allowed to attend the ceremony, but I had a friend who double-checked for me, and in the end, my husband Travis and daughter Nora were actually able to be there for the ceremony! That was definitely a blessing and I was so glad they were able to be there. After saying the oath, we took some pictures in front of the “US Citizenship and Immigration Services” sign and were then able to head out.
I was finally, officially, a citizen!
We celebrated at home with family and friends that night. I now have double citizenship with dual nationality, just like my daughter: Dutch & American. America doesn’t necessarily support dual nationality, but also doesn’t forbid it, so it depends on your home country if you can have a dual nationality. The Netherlands allows you to have dual citizenship if you are married to a person of that country (which is the case for me, since Travis is a US citizen). Make sure you check the current rules regarding dual nationality before you become a citizen.
People ask me sometimes: What is different now that you’re a citizen? Well, compared to being a green card holder, as a citizen, the biggest change is that I am now able to vote. I am now also able to have a U.S. passport and get U.S. support abroad, work in federal government jobs, and get certain social security benefits that I wasn’t able to get as a green card holder. Oh! And of course I have to do jury duty now when called upon.