Obtaining US Citizenship

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Disclosure: This article is purely informational and based upon personal experience with immigration.

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, dealing with USCIS directly since marriage for a total of 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 one year.

I sent in form N-400, application for naturalization, together with copies of my current permanent resident (green) card in July 2021. The wait had begun.

I received a confirmation receipt in the mail soon after, and it said that they could still use my biometrics from my original green card, so I did not have to come into the office to get new biometrics (pictures and fingerprints) taken.

The next notice was the interview notice, which came in January of this year (2022). Unlike previous interviews, where my husband Travis was the sponsor for my green card, he did not have to come to this one, and it was just me by myself. 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. So in February, when it was time for my interview, I headed downtown, all prepared and knowing literally every answer to every question in the guide.

You also have to take an English “test” consisting out of 3 sections (reading, writing, and speaking) to become a citizen. 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 in the sense 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 obviously understood and answered what the officer talked about, then you passed the English test. So that was part one of the interview.

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 were 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 guaranteed by the First Amendment?”, “Who is the Commander in Chief of the military?”, “Name one of your state’s U.S. Senators”, and “Who is the Father of our country?”

In preparation for this interview, I discussed many of the questions with my friends, and most 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 close! 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, 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 and daughter 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!

Obtained US Citizenship
Obtained my US Citizenship

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.

I am happy and proud to be an American now and to be part of such a great, free country. I will be forever grateful that I can live in both the Netherlands and United States at any time, and I can’t wait for the journey and all the lessons that I will learn as a new American.

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Originally from the Netherlands, Vivian moved to Memphis in 2011. She received a full athletic scholarship to combine her studies with athletics, throwing shot put, discus, and hammer for the University of Memphis. Vivian graduated with a Bachelor’s in Sport & Leisure Management in 2014 and a Master’s in Communication in 2016. After graduating, she started working in education and became a Physical Education Teacher in 2017. She taught at a private school for 3 years before becoming a stay-at-home mom to a sweet little girl, Nora (September 2019). Vivian met her husband Travis at the University of Memphis, hit it off in Europe, and married on a leap year (February 29, 2016). Together they own a quadplex in the Binghampton community. Vivian loves traveling and exploring new places with her husband and child. She enjoys hanging out with her fellow international friends, trying new exercise classes, and being creative by coloring, painting, or writing.

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