Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Foreigner no Longer

This is a little belated, but as of Wednesday, Oct. 19th at 1:00 PM, at the Gerald R. Ford Museum here in Grand Rapids, Jessica became a bona fide naturalized citizen of these here United States of America.

For those that may not know, Jessica is a Canadian citizen.  Born and raised in St. Catharines, ON she came to Dordt College in 1994 on a student visa.  After we got married and determined that it was likely we’d be staying in the U.S. for the forseeable future we took the next step in the process to make her stay here more permanent. 

So in August of 1997, as part of our honeymoon, we made a trip to the Immigration Office in Omaha, NE (romantic, I know) where we began what came to be a two-year process to get her a green card.  So two one-year temporary work visas and a special request for travel to attend her brother’s wedding later she had a green card.  Officially, she had become a Legal Permanent Resident Alien of the United States.  This status would be good for ten years (the longest duration allowed) before we would have to apply again.    This gave her all the rights and responsibilities of a US Citizen except the right to vote in any election of any kind.

But somehow, Permanent Resident Alien still seemed to, well….foreign. First of all, only the US government can call something that by definition only lasts ten years at most ‘permanent’.  Second, that word alien…it just isn’t very inviting.  She was living AS an alien and I was living WITH an alien…neither of us were too fond of the moniker. 

Her most recent green card expired in May of 2011, so last year about this time we started talking about what to do next.  Do we apply for another green card and get us another ten years or do we go whole hog and get it done once and for all?  After talking about it ourselves and taking wise counsel from others, we opted for the latter.  Thus began the research.

We would need to submit an application for naturalization which would need to be approved.  She would have to undergo a ‘biometrics’ appointment in which her fingerprints would be taken.  After that, we would have to appear for an interview in Detroit where she would be quizzed on her knowledge of the history and government of the USA.  A quiz that I doubt many Americans could pass and if we could successfully navigate all of that her application would be recommended for approval.

So we sent in the completed application in February of this year.  Completed the biometrics appointment in April and attended an interview in Detroit on June 13th and then we waited. 

The next government notice we received was that we missed her oath ceremony on July 20.  The problem was that we had never received the notice to attend.  So after more waiting and phone calling, we found out that her oath ceremony would be on October 19, 2011.

The story takes many twists and turns – not the least of which is neglecting to bring her green card to the interview in Detroit which was just about disastrous – we made it.  The ceremony was very well done.  She was sworn in with 85 others representing 37 countries of the world.  It was solemn and fun all at the same.  For many, this was a dream come true. 

What’s this all mean?  It means that I no longer with an alien, I guess. But, as Christians, I suppose were all aliens….we’re just permanent resident aliens here on earth as we await the Lord’s return.  In the meantime, we swear an oath of allegiance to our countries even as our true allegiance is to the ruler of every country.

Welcome to the US of A, Jessica! 

1 comment:

Beth TenHaken said...

Great post and also, Welcome, Jessica! What a great time we had with all of you and our family in Zeeland over the weekend! It all goes so fast but was great! So nice that Paul, Jill and Jade flew out to spend a few days as well. We, as parents, treasure the times when 'our three boys' are together. Have a good wekek!

Love you all , Mom