I was born in Canada and moved to Phoenix, AZ when I was in my early 30’s. For the last 20 years, my husband and I have lived in the United States, in both Arizona and New York. Both of our children were born here. I’ve wanted to become a citizen for a long time, but it never seemed to be a priority. However my son will soon be 18 years old and eligible to vote in the next presidential election, and there was no way that I wanted him to be able to vote before I could!
The citizenship process is easy and well-organized. You submit answers to a long questionnaire and a check for more than $700, then wait for about 3 months. The next step is a visit to the INS office for photos and finger prints. You also pick up your guide to the 100 questions (and answers) that you need to know for your citizenship exam.
The exam was easy and comfortable. I swore to tell the truth, and the officer asked me about six questions. I got them correct. There was a very basic reading and writing test. I then had the option to wait for an hour to get my invitation to the swearing in ceremony, which would be held the following week. Or I could go home and I would receive a letter in the mail. The letter arrived on Friday (November 25) for swearing in yesterday (November 30). Not much notice, but it worked.
My swearing in was at the courthouse in Islip. There is seating for 145 people, although there were only 99 present today. (Apparently it’s highly unusual not to have a full house). The letter said to arrive at 8:30 AM. We got there about 8:20 and the room was half full. (By the way, plan on surrendering your cell phone and camera at the building’s entrance.) Those being sworn in sat in rows with no empty chairs in between, and filed up (by row) to surrender our green cards. It took until 9:20 for this process to be complete.
There was a gallery with seats for observers. Since they had no cell phones or cameras, the viewers got pretty bored and the small kids in the audience got very restless. I’d recommend a crossword puzzle to keep your mind busy.
Then we waited until 9:45 AM for the judge to arrive. According to an “expert” friend, whose sat through this process twice, the judge is always late. We said our oath, and the judge spoke for a few minutes about the importance of immigrants to the U.S. They listed the 33 countries represented, and we each stood when our country was called. I was the only Canadian, and there were people from countries I had never heard of. I sat between a lady from Poland and a lady from Ecuador.
We were then called us up — individually and according to the row we were sitting in — to receive our naturalization certificates. The judge said a few words to us, shook our hands, and we were done. We could leave the room as soon as we got our certificates.
The only place to take photos was in the rotunda downstairs, after the ceremony. No photos were allowed outside of the building either. Given that my husband was late for work and my daughter wasn’t feeling well, we left without photos. I brought my daughter home (she slept for 6 hours) and celebrated by getting my allergy shot and going grocery shopping at the warehouse club.
I’m proud to be an American citizen. To bring this back to quilting, I’ll share a patriotic quilt I made over the summer.