The following is the first part in a series of articles by Juan Vasquez on his journey to citizenship.
It’s funny when a long journey comes to an end. We realize the amount of opportunities that could be around every corner and are filled with the the satisfaction that comes along with “achieving.” I never thought I’d feel this way about becoming an American citizen and getting my little blue book A.K.A. American passport. But, that’s pretty much how I feel.
My good friend Nick had the idea to put this experience on digital paper. So that’s what I’m about to do.
In the next who-knows-how-many words I’ll recap the literal process I’ve gone through. I’ll quickly hit a few legal standings I proudly held, “Illegal Immigrant” included, and explain the steps I took to go from “resident” to “soon to be citizen.”
Let’s jump in. In the span of over 12 years my legal status has been upgraded, downgraded and manipulated from Tourist, to Illegal Alien, Refugee and Resident Alien. At this point I’m a few weeks away from having my citizenship interview and test. Side note, the citizenship test is like stepping back into into your middle and high school classrooms. I’ll share some sample questions in a bit.
As I worked my way through the Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors that is the legal system, I was given a social security number, work permit, various types of visas, a green card and endless amounts of letters from my friends over at the Department of Homeland Security. Nice people.
To make it happen, there were a lot – A LOT – of interviews and appointments to go to, and documents to fill. The amount of paperwork can be intimidating for most, myself included, but it’s much easier to work through than one would assume. Don’t think it can only be done with or through expensive lawyers – you can do a lot of the leg work yourself.
Now, I became a resident once my dad became a citizen – about 8 years after first hitting Sunny South Florida. Before I got my shiny “green card” I was under political asylum, meaning a refugee. Through this process I got my social security and work permit.
The paragraphs above are only my story. There are a million ways to ultimately become a citizen, sadly, all intricate, with very strict parameters and requiring a lot of time and dollars.
I digress. After becoming a resident, which means I have almost as many rights as a US citizen, I had to pay 5 consecutive years of taxes, spend at least 6 months of every one of those 5 years here in the States, and then I:
- Mailed in the application, copies of both sides of my “green card”, 2 “passport” photos I had taken at a CVS and a check for $680 ($595 filing fee + $85 biometrics service fee AKA getting my fingerprints taken).
- Received a letter from my homies at the Department of Homeland Security. It came within a month of them receiving my application packet, with a specific appointment date/time.
- Attended the appointment, where they took my picture and all my fingerprints. Since I checked out fine the nice lady at the desk gave me a Practice Workbook with the info on American history, government and English I’ll be tested on. I need to start studying.
- Received a letter with my next appointment, it’s a few weeks away. There I’ll be interviewed by an immigration officer and then be tested on the topics I just mentioned. Here are some sample multiple choice questions:
- Name one war fought by the United States?
- Who is the VP?
- What did Susan B. Antony do?
So, I’m at a point where the finish line is just a few feet away. After my interview/test I’ll receive another letter from my compadres requesting additional interviews or, hopefully, a scheduled date for me to come in and pledge allegiance to the United States of America.
I’ll let you guys know how it all pans out once it’s the “day of.” And then the other “day of.”