I live and die by my to-do list. Anything that needs doing needs to be in there or it won’t get done. So, when I got my permanent green card 12 years ago, I set up a reminder for earlier this year that I would need to renew it.
After taking a look at the situation, I was presented with a choice: renew my green card for 10 years for $540, or become an American citizen and pay $725 one time.
Previously, I’d never given it much thought. I had zero desire to become an American citizen and very much wanted to retain my British citizenship. But after actually thinking about it and asking myself the question, I decided there were definitely some benefits to becoming an American citizen:
- Financially, it makes a lot more sense. I pay another $185 this one time, but then I never have to go through the process again.
- Security: while I obviously don’t plan on committing any crimes, my faith in the American police and justice systems is wavering at best. That aside, with the current administration, it’s not beyond belief that innocent people can be used as pawns in a political game. As a green card holder, you can be deported at any time for committing a crime. As a citizen, you cannot be deported except in the most extreme circumstances.
- Travel gets a bit easier as I can re-enter the United States as a US citizen with my family, rather than waiting in the line for foreigners.
- I can retain my British citizenship. The US no longer requires naturalised citizens to give up the citizenship of their previous country (though you verbally relinquish allegiance to them when you take the Oath of Allegiance) and the UK is fine with dual citizenship, so I was able to keep my British citizenship.
- I can vote.
The last point is the main reason I made the switch. It was a requirement for me that I was able to keep my British citizenship and since that was possible, I decided that there was too much at stake to no longer have a say in the political system that governs my daily life.
I long took the stance that I didn’t want to get involved in American politics: it really turned me off and I have a disdain for how polarised and aggressive it can be. However, with two young children in the mix and the 2016 election showing just how damaging an election can be, I decided that I couldn’t sit idly by any more.
I started the process of applying for naturalization in February 2019. In March, I had my biometrics appointment (for them to photograph and fingerprint me) and in May I got my notice to appear for my naturalisation interview in June.
I did a little studying for the civics exam, but on the day, everything was laughably easy. I got the first 6 civics questions right for an immediate pass, and was asked to read the sentence “We pay taxes” and write the sentence “We pay the government what they are owed”. After the immigration officer sat me down and went through my application with me, despite a small slip-up where I gave the impression I had knowingly committed serious crimes and covered them up (I cleared it up during the interview, thankfully!), I was invited to stick around and come to the naturalisation ceremony that afternoon.
While the ceremony was dry and we were forced to sit through a truly awful video of Trump welcoming us to the United States, we took the oath and were sworn in.
I registered to vote that afternoon and have since received confirmation that I am registered and will be receiving my first ballot in the next couple of weeks.
And that’s about the end of my naturalisation story, though only the beginning of my citizenship story: I intend to fully discharge my right to vote and participate in this democracy, and will be proud that my first act as a voting American will to be vote Trump out of office.