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.