Yesterday, Jacob, Bean and me - rushing out of my school job 15 minutesearly - took a 2 ½ hour drive to Charlotte, NC so that I could undergo - for the third time in as many years - the ordeal of fingerprinting atthe regional processing center of the U.S. Immigration andNaturalization Services.
It's been a long, sometimes entertaining, costly and not always scenic journey.
I filed my first application toward citizenship almost 6 years ago. I have lived in the United States for almost 15 years. I have filed taxreturns for 14 of those years.
I have adored the particular Americanbrand of well-meaning expansive friendliness that,at least in myopinon, is born out of the sincere belief of Americans that this is the GREATEST COUNTY ON EARTH (no other country claims this as far as Iknow). I have wanted to STAY FOR GOOD for at least a dozen of my yearshere.
As my own mother once observed. I never quite fit in in Switzerland. Ifeel at home here. I will always be a little bit Swiss, but also a lot like any American around me.
Even if I'm a sleeper or otherwise harbor threats, rest assured my presence in this great country is well documented with a set of 12 beautiful prints of my digits (as well as palms - not the toes tough) repeated three times over. In addition, I had the "pleasure" of sitting through an interview with an immigration officer, who grilled me about my life (picture naked light bulb and sweaty brow and you are close). I have also had to provide extensive documentation pertaining to my financial background, my career curiculum, my education, my American circle of friends (I still have those letters many of you so kindly wrote for me), my criminal record, as well as a set of X-rays of my lungs.
Whatever it says on Lady Liberty about the sick...clear lungs nowadaysare a requirement for legal immigration.
My favorite among all these, must be choosing between "yes" or "no" on a particularly amusing questionnaire regarding my voting habits in my home country, suspected prior involvement in espionage, terrorism orprostitution. It took all it had not to spice up my sheltered and tranquil upbringing in Switzerland ...
Despite all this - and a 5-hour roundtrip to the city with my urban-phobic wonderful husband yesterday - I'm determined to cross the finish line toward American citizenship sometime this year.
I want to be like Apple Pie, take adrive to the levy, be a member of the land of the free and the home ofthe brave...and most of all, I want to vote and be a proud member of this great society of free and friendly people.
The application process is arduous, slow and tests my patience everturn of the way, but I also understand that if I REALLY WANT TO LIVE HERE and nowhere else, I have to show the willingness and dedication to go through this without too much griping...from my stumbling start, with my wonderful host parents to today, I have never wavered, never not paid a fee, never not shown up to another "invitation" to stick my fingers under a scanner and be photographed from especially unflattering angles.
It's the price you pay to be here quare and LEGAL.
I look forward to the day I'll be of the same nationality as my husbandand son. I will likely cry the first time I cast a ballot and get one of those "I voted" stickers, and - Carol this is for you - I'm excited about that theme party we're going to throw, once I get that little Star-spangled banner and get to recite my pledge of Allegiance.
I'm also thinking about getting a bumper sticker:
"Legal and processing fees - $7,000
Number of years on the way to citizenship - 6
Sets of fingerpints given - 3
Becoming an American Citizen - Priceless"
"I'm an honored to be a student of American citizenry"
"It's the legal in immigration that's important, stupid!"
"I'm a legal immigrant, what tax amnesty do you got for me?"
Next up. Taking the citizenship test. I have to study 100 "basic" U.S.Goverment related questions (see some examples in the sidebar). Jacob and I crammed yesterday. Maybe we'll go on Jeopardy to dazzle everyone in the U.S. Goverment category.
Now what's more American than that?