I really need a big cup of frozen yogurt with a bunch of crunchy stuff in it.
My immigration journey was finally over today at 8:45 am in the Newark office (Newark, NJ) when IO told me I'm approved and that the oath ceremony is in a few hours.
The appointment was scheduled for 7:30 am so I was in the first group of applicants for a naturalization interview today.
The waiting room is fairly big, with 8 windows and three doors. Although about dozen of people was sitting and waiting to be called there was no noise in the room, the clerks quietly and politely kept registering more applicants as those came in.
A little before 8 one guy came out of the admin door, he was smiling and said "Welcome to the USCIS office in Newark, you can relax now and have your drinks. The vending machines are in the hall. There's also a cafeteria downstairs. We hold three oath ceremonies today and also give free US flags. So good luck to everyone!". Everyone got cheered up after his words and it all started. My attorney arrived about 8:15. She went over the copy of my N400 and then waved to a few officers she saw behind the windows.
I'm sure all these standard things are not interesting to you so I'll start with the details of my case.
I was nervously waiting to be called. The concerns were not over the civic test but over my moral character:
- I was married twice (first ex-hb sponsored my GC, married for 4 years; second ex-hb is also US citizen but we were married for only 3 months).
- I have 4 traffic violations for the last 5 years (cafeteria choice: 2 speeding tickets; driving on red light; improper cell phone usage while operating a vehicle). All is paid but as far as the last one - I didn't show up for the appeal in court as I forgot. I thought it'll be on the driving history.
- I'm in installment agreement with the IRS to pay my 2014 balance till August of this year. BUT I PAID IT ALL OUT THE DAY BEFORE THE INTERVIEW.
- I changed 5-6 addresses and never notified USCIS about it. There were more short term residences that I don't even remember.
- I think that some time 5 years ago I applied online for a federal reserve position and checked off the status US citizen (because there was no choice for green card holders - only visa holder or US citizen). I think.. I don't recall...
Anyways, the IO finally called my name, and we walked towards the door. As soon as the officer opened it for us my attorney said "I have G-28", and the office said "No problem". (Note, I decided to bring the attorney basically last minute).
The officer is in his 50s, looked very serious... HEAVY South American accent... Although my brain slept only 5 hours it was fast enough to process what he said for the first time so I didn't have to ask to repeat. But let me tell you, if there was someone who doesn't speak and understand English well - he would have a horrible time to communicate with this officer. NO OFFENSE TO THE IO, just saying).
He started from asking to raise the right hand and swear to tell the truth..Then he asked for my ID, GC and passport.
Then he started discussing the situation with my first name because, as he said, it's confusing. It's translated from my language so it sounds different from what it generally is. I explained all and I said that I want to go by the normal version.
So he changed it.
Next question he asked is if I was out of country for more than 6 months. I said no.
Then he asked if I have any children. I said no.
What do I do for living, where I work and for how long (I've been doing accounting for 6 years).
Then he asked what company did I work prior to that and where. I explained that I moved to NJ again last year as I got a job here, and before that I lived and worked in Boston.
Then he asked how for long I was in Boston before I moved to NJ for the second time?
Moved on to the next..,He asked for how long was my first marriage and when we got divorced and whether I have any children.
I explained all and said I have no children (note: second question about kids).
Then he went to another marriage. "Oh, that was very short. Did you sponsor him a green card?". I said no, he's a U.S. Citizen. (Note: I indicated it on N400).
He asked for copies of marriage and divorce certificates for both marriages so he can keep them.
"Did you have any children?" (Note: same question third time). I said no.
"Were you ever arrested or cited..?". I said I have traffic tickets. "Any DUI?". I said no.
"Do you owe any taxes?". I said no. (I didn't want to start the story with the installment agreement and that I paid it off just now). Straight question - straight answer.
Then he went over the standard list of questions on N400.
Then he went to civic questions:
- What group of people was brought to the States as slaves?
- Why did the colonists fight the British?
- Who's the Vice President of the United States?
- How many amendments to the Constitution?
- What is the highest court in the United States?
- Who makes federal laws?
Then he asked to read "Who can vote", and then he asked to write "Citizens can vote".
"Congratulations, you passed the test, I recommend you for approval". He gave me two pieces of paper to sign and sent back to the waiting room.
So I brought a pile of supporting paperwork and copies and he ended up asking only for copies of marriage certificates and divorce decrees. No IRS, no taxes, no tickets, no leases, no proof of bona fide marriage etc. I felt relieved.
For a moment, as I was sitting and waiting for the oath, I looked around me and I thought... I'm surrounded by so many different cute happy faces with different skin colors; different languages are striking my ears; and those Indian ladies wearing gorgeous bright outfits walked by like flying butterflies... May be it's the lighting in the room but all seemed so shiny and colorful, so beautiful. I felt like I'm holding the whole world in my hand. Isn't it amazing what this country is like? It's the star-spangled rainbow of cultures, and I'm so lucky to be a part of it!
The Oath Ceremony was amazing. The 12 pm group consisted of 55 people representing 30 countries! As they called a country name the person from that country had to stand up and everyone clapped their hands. Once "all countries stood up" we all said the Oath of Allegiance and Pledge of Allegiance.
Then we watched a video of Obama's congratulations-speech, photos of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island with the patriotic song in the background. Now it wasn't the same to listen to the anthem. This got so deeply into my heart because I finally listened to it as something that belongs to me as well.
I'm happy for all of them, I'm happy for their families and for their babies that were impatiently waiting for the moms-new citizens and crying every five minutes.
As far the clothing style of people... Everything from flip flops and beach dresses to formal suits. I was formal because that's my usual style for work, and I like it.
But I don't judge people. After all it's the final step that should be joyful.
Thank you VJs for all your input and encouraging words!
Btw, the picture they put on my certificate is the one I submitted with N400 which is great (not the one they took during biometrics).