Celebrating a New American on Citizenship Day

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American citizen waves a United States flag.

Today is Constitution Day and Citizenship Day – an opportunity to celebrate those who have come to America and done the hard work of becoming a citizen. LIRS staff member Rana Almishlib shares her story of becoming a citizen of the United States.

Rana writes:

I’d like to share how this country is free and blessed. Anybody can be a citizen no matter their race, color, or religion. I want to share about the way that this country gave me a lot of power – that I can be equal, no matter my sex or my religion.

I would encourage anyone who couldn’t find this peace and equality in their country to be grateful and motivated to do it, work towards their U.S. citizenship. My new life started here, in a peaceful country. No matter what difficulties I have been through, either in my origin country or adjusting here, I can only say it was worth all of the sacrifices.

The Application Process

Rana during the citizenship ceremony.
Rana during the citizenship ceremony.

It took five years to get my citizenship; I had to stay in the U.S. for that time without traveling outside the country. Once I was here for close to five years, I had to send in paperwork to begin the application process.  Then they schedule interviews and process your paperwork and information.  It took about five months to complete the application process.

Wanting Citizenship

One of my main reasons for getting my citizenship was because I wanted to be able travel and go back to see my family in Iraq, with no fear of not being able to come back.  Also, with my U.S. citizenship, I can go anywhere and be proud that I am an American.

I wanted to enjoy the rights and freedom available to everyone else here in the United States.

I wanted to be proud of this country and being a U.S. citizen shows that I became part of it and belong.

The Challenges

The hardest part was that I had to remember and write down all the places where I had lived and worked. Meeting with an officer who asked me questions was also intimidating. I didn’t want to give the wrong answers. Studying for the citizenship test was hard because you didn’t know which questions you would have to answer.

Celebrating with Friends

Rana with colleagues from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services.
Rana with colleagues from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

My favorite part was when I got to see my supervisor, Terry, along with colleagues Nicole, Laura, and Denise coming with flowers to cheer for me. Also, when they called my name to get the citizenship certificate and how it felt great when I was holding it. Listening to the “Star Spangled Banner” at the ceremony was so moving. I almost cried.

Looking Back

I felt the citizenship was a big achievement.  I had to stay in the United States for five years and could not leave the country. I had to show that I could follow the rules and obey the laws here. You have to file your taxes and pay your bills. It’s more than just papers, it’s a commitment.

You have to be brave.

Now I have the opportunity to apply to different jobs in the future that require citizenship. I am now able to vote. I have always wanted to be able to do that.

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