Immigration Milestones

Later this month, my family will celebrate the 16 year anniversary since we moved to the United States.  I was almost 19 years old when we came here, and in the years since we have encountered quite a few challenges associated with immigration.  However, I wouldn't change a thing.

Most Americans don't really understand the immigration process.  As I have gone through the different phases of being a visa holder, a green card holder and now as I go through the process to become a citizen, people are always surprised.  They ask, "Aren't you a citizen just by having married one?"  Nope.  It merely opened a door to me to pay a lot of money and fill out a lot of paperwork!

This year will mark the 10 year anniversary of being awarded my green card, or to put it more correctly, my permanent resident card.  This is the proof that I am allowed to work freely in this country, though it does not afford me the right to vote.  In order to obtain this little card, I had to go through a series of medical testing, biometrics, lots of fees and paperwork, and a final interview.  For a decade, I have carried that card around with a sense of duty and pride.  It is a representation of a dream come true for me!

This year, that card expires and rather than renew, I applied for American citizenship (also called naturalization).  As a taxpayer, I would like to vote.  I cannot foresee myself ever seeking to live anywhere else.  I love it here.  It is not perfect, but there is so much opportunity.  I cannot think how different my life might have been had I never come here.

This week, I had my first official appointment with immigration for my citizenship requirements.  I was fingerprinted for about the fourth time.  Photos were taken and a background check is being run - again.  I will now sit and wait patiently to be called for my interview, where I will take a civics test and be asked some questions.  After that at some point will be a ceremony where I will take an oath of allegiance to the United States.  And after that, a party to celebrate!

I have been a part of different groups of people who were immigrants to this country and they were filled with complaints about the process and the culture, and it caused me to ask why they come here at all.  "For the opportunity," they answer.  I agree, and since that is the case I believe we need to be gracious and patient as we work through the system, because it is not our birthright to be here.  I remember 15-year-old me telling my classmates I would be an American someday, and I remember their scoffing.  And so as I write my checks and go to appointments I'd rather not have to go to, I remember that, that this is part of a process of which I am privileged to be a part.