American citizenship

Oksana is an American citizen

by Oksana Leslie, author of
How to Survive in International Marriage

Citizen of AmericaThere are two ways to become a citizen. One is through the birth, and another is through the legal immigration process called NATURALIZATION (form N - 400).

Most Americans through birth do not realize that it is not easy to become a citizen through naturalization. Actually it is a challenge. Immigrants have to not just fill out a lot of paperwork, and be fingerprinted. They have to study American history and government for the test, English language, and pay money for the processing.
For me, personally, the whole process was a huge milestone.

When I applied and submitted all my paperwork for the first time in May, 2004, I received it all back with a note: “Our prices went up, new fee is now $75 for fingerprinting, and $320 for processing.” Next time I applied again in September, 2005.

My paperwork came back again: “Our forms have changed. Please, download and submit new form.” So, third time I applied and sent paperwork again in December, 2005, in Pensacola, Florida. Russians have a saying: “God loves trinity.” In my case, this was true.

In January, 2006, I received a letter that my naturalization process has been started, and that I have to drive to New Orleans’s CIA office for fingerprinting. Thanks God, some Russian friends from local Baptist church had an invitation letter to do the same thing on the same day at the same place. So, I was not alone for the fingerprinting procedure.
The fingerprinting took place in April, 2006. My test for English, history and government took place in Jacksonville, on July, 12. I was lucky again, because the same Russian family went with me to Jacksonville (5 hour drive).
In Jacksonville, the interview one on one with an immigration officer took about 15 minutes. He made sure that I am who I am. Computer gave him 10 questions. If you answer 6 correctly, no one asks you the rest. I was asked: “What 13 stripes on American flag symbolize?”, “How many terms an American president can serve?” “What are the changes to the constitution called?” “Who will become a president if a president and vice-president shall die?” “Who is an author of American hymn THE STAR SPLANGLED BANNER?”

The immigration officer asked me if am still married, about my job, my children, and asked me to write and to read simple English sentences. So, for immigrants who do not speak English, to pass this test is like “Mission Impossible Ever”.
At the end, right when I felt that stress is over, the officer told me that my pictures were taken incorrectly, and that now INS accepts regular passport photos. So, I had to leave in order to find closest CVS to take my pictures, and to bring them back, and sign in the presence of the immigration officer.

In the 29th of September, I was invited among 104 immigrants to Pensacola court for an oath ceremony. My husband Keith was looking for his keys that morning, and had hard time finding them. It was irritating: “I was driving us; I planned to drop him back home before I went back to work, and I could not understand his actions and worries.”
We parked pretty far from the downtown court building. Security officers informed us, that cell phones are not allowed inside. We had to walk back to my car (Oh, God, why did I put on my heels that day?) to leave cell phone inside in. When I came up to my vehicle, I saw my keys locked inside on my driver’s seat. I almost had a heart attack. My sick husband made an enormous effort to come with me that day. He had a champion face on. Keith reached in his pocket, and pulled his keys out: “I am your back up plan, baby, do not ever forget it.”

Well, after 2 hours of going through security, registration and signing papers, the ceremony finally took place. I was happy to sit down; my both ankles were bleeding from the shoes. Judges and politics spoke their speeches; photographers took new citizen’s pictures. I never thought that my face will end up in a local newspaper. I am sitting there, looking up with a tired frown on my face on one of the happiest days in my life.

Adjusting to a new country:

Complete Guide for Immigrants

Russian English translation

Help your Russian wife

Russian for kids

Learn Russian

Learn English

Call Russia

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