Thursday, June 14, 2007

Three years ago today...

Three years ago today I took the Oath of Citizenship in Boston.

I was born in Melbourne, Australia, but moved to the U.S. when I was a wee lad. My mum had applied for citizenship for me a couple of times when I was growing up, but the INS managed to lose the paperwork and/or lose track of us (we moved around a lot when I was growing up).

I liked being an "alien"-- it was just a random interesting fact about me, and besides not being able to vote, it didn't really affect my life much.

Then sometime in the 90's they made green cards expire once a decade or so. Up until that time, my green card was cute-- it had a picture of 5-year-old me on it. I hate dealing with bureaucratic nonsense, and figured I'd have less to deal with in the long run if I went ahead and became a citizen. Here's what the process was like for a white, professional, spotlessly-clean criminal record, been-living-here-for-25-years college graduate:

I sent in my citizenship application in 1996. Then waited.

After six months, I sent in the "hey, do you still have my paperwork?" form.

Then I waited.

After a year, I sent in the "hey, are you processing my application?" form again.

After a while I get a letter saying that I have to send in fingerprints. So, off to the local police station, get fingerprinted, get them to sign the appropriate paperwork, and send that in.

A couple months later-- get told that the fingerprints aren't good enough, I have to have them done again. Ok.... back to the local police office, they do it again, send them in.

Then more waiting. I was happy to get a letter in the mail telling me to show up at the INS office next Wednesday-- even though that meant a three hour round trip to the nearest immigration office. After waiting an hour for my name to be called, I spend about 10 minutes taking the citizenship exam and talking with a bureaucrat. I think the bureaucrat was an immigrant, too-- his english was a little hard to understand.

Now comes an interesting twist-- while waiting some more, we move from Wisconsin to Massachusetts. I fill out the form that tells them that I'm moving and send that in. Then send in a "hey, are you still processing my application?" form again (even though I'd never actually gotten a response to any of those, I figured it couldn't hurt).

I really hoped the move wouldn't mean I'd have to start the process all over again (I'd been waiting three years at this point). And Yay! I didn't! In January of 2004 I get a message from the BOSTON immigration office that I must drive to Boston (a 4 hour round trip...) and get my fingerprints taken AGAIN. Next Thursday. At 10:30AM.

Yes Sir, whatever you say, Sir. And I guess the third time was the charm-- because Lo and Behold, a Miracle! A short 4 months later I get a letter telling me to come to Boston in a few weeks for my naturalization ceremony.

And that's how I became a citizen on Flag Day, June 14, 2004.


Richard Morse said...

And now you are a member of the most peculiar democratic institution in all of the United States, Amherst Town Meeting. (The US Congress, Chicago Board of Aldermen, and the New Hampshire state legislature all run a distant second.)

Welcome aboard.

I recommend reading The Federalist Papers to see how our Founding Fathers understood that democracy, without some safeguards, could run completely aground.

Mary E.Carey said...

Thanks for checking out my blog and saying I have some good pictures at least. Maybe we can trade observations about blogging. I see you are likely to have some insights about the technical aspects. So you were born in Australia. Interesting!