DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Aug 9 2017

Becoming An American Citizen

by Camille B

Photo AOn July 3rd, 2017 I became a citizen of the United States. Standing alongside 72 other candidates, all from different countries around the world, I solemnly took the Oath of Allegiance to Support and defend the Constitution and laws of this great nation.

I remember the lady sitting next to me was from Cuba, the gentleman to my right was from Jamaica, and I listened intently as one by one the names of the various countries present were called: China, Nigeria, Canada, India, Vietnam, Pakistan, Ecuador…

One by one we stood, looking solemn and a little nervous, as we prepared to embrace this country as our own. We were now about to become Americans not by birth but by choice. In reality, most of us had already done so, having borne permanent resident status for many years, which granted us the freedom to do such things as work, pay taxes, get a driver’s license, go to school etc. But it was something different to be called an American citizen, to now have a voice and be counted when and where it really mattered.

Later that day a family member asked me how I felt, and I thought they were being a little dramatic. It wasn’t like I’d had surgery. But on further reflection, I realized that it was a valid question. How did I feel besides being excited and a little overwhelmed?

Well, strangely enough, amidst all the other emotions I was feeling, I realized that I was having some anxiety wondering how my family and friends back home would react to the news; the people I had grown up with from childhood; and gone to school with, worked with. Would they celebrate my newfound citizenship? Or would they think I had turned my back on my country of birth? And if, perchance they did feel this way, how did I explain that it was not the case?

I guess the only example I could draw on was the same bitter-sweet feeling a bride must have felt in the olden days when she had to leave her parents home and give up her name for her husband’s. Yes she was in love and ready to start a new life with him, but she was also leaving her family behind. But this didn’t mean she loved them any less. They still remained a very important part of her life. It was the same feeling I had about my native land.

The Naturalization Process

The road to citizenship can sometimes be a long one, and for some confusing, but I found everything that I needed to help me through the process both on the USCIS and DCPL websites.

The Application

Form N-400 is the one needed to file for Application for Naturalization and can be downloaded at uscis.gov/n-400, submit it along with the appropriate fees (as of December 23, 2016 the application fee has increased to $640, the biometrics fee remains $85). You will receive a receipt notice from the USCIS office letting you know that they’ve received your application and will be contacting you with a date, time and location for your biometric screening.

Biometrics Appointment

The biometrics screening process requires you to be fingerprinted and photographed for the purpose of conducting an FBI criminal background check. All applicants must have background checks completed before USCIS will schedule an interview, so if there are skeletons in your closet, beware. Biometrics

The Citizenship Test/ Naturalization Interview

Some time after having your biometrics screening done, you will receive an appointment notice scheduling a date and time for an interview with USCIS. The wait time for this can take several months, and you should use this time to study for the test which is broken into four categories: civics, reading, writing and speaking.Exam Book

The civics test consists of questions based on American history and government as well as integrated civics questions. You will be given 100 questions to study out of which you will be asked 10 randomly at the interview. You must correctly answer 6 of these questions  in order to pass this portion of the test.

Next, you must read one out of three sentences correctly to show your ability to read in English, write one out of three sentences to show your ability to write in English, and answer questions from your submitted application to determine your ability to speak English.

The Oath of Allegiance Swearing-In Ceremony

If you are successful in passing your interview, there is a possibility that you can take your Oath of Allegiance that same day. If not, USCIS will mail you a notification with the date, time, and location of your scheduled oath ceremony. You are not a U.S. citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony.

The Oath of Allegiance is administered, either by USCIS at an administrative ceremony or by a judge in a judicial ceremony, and you receive your Certificate of Naturalization on the same day after taking it. On this day you will also be turning in your permanent resident card (Green card) to USCIS.

What it Means To Be a Citizen

So now that it’s all said and done, what does this mean to you the new American citizen? Well you now have certain rights that you didn’t have before:

-The right to vote

-The right to run for certain public offices

-The right to have a U.S. passport

-The right to obtain a federal government job

-The right to have U.S. government protection and help when traveling to other countries

You also have responsibilities as a citizen such as:

-Supporting and defending the Constitution and U.S. laws

-Serving on a jury

-Registering to vote

-Voting

-Serving in the armed forces of the United States when required

As I mentioned earlier, there were many great books at DCPL that helped me through the naturalization process from beginning to end, and I’ve listed a few of them here. As well as the Learning Express Library database on the website where you can find helpful resources including practice questions for the English and Civics test.

 

Nolo Book

Becoming a U.S. citizen- a Guide to the Law, Exam & Interview (IIona Bray)

 

Exam BookPass the U.S. citizenship exam 

 

 

Kaplan's Book

 

Becoming a U.S. citizen: understanding the naturalization process

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Joseph M August 12, 2017 at 12:43 PM

Congrats, Camille!!!

Denise August 15, 2017 at 12:11 PM

Congratulations! This is a great article.

Dea Anne M August 15, 2017 at 3:20 PM

Congratulations Camille and thank you for this lovely post. There’s a lot of debate these days about what it really means to be a “real” American and it’s so refreshing and heartening to read the words of someone who doesn’t take citizenship for granted. Well done!

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