US Citizenship Process, Naturalization Ceremony Explained
HARLINGEN – It’s is a test that can make or break your case to become a U.S. Citizen.
This week CHANNEL 5 NEWS was granted permission to be inside as someone we know took that exam.
Every year in the Rio Grande Valley, about 2,400 people become U.S. Citizens.
Before that happens, they have a final interview that determines their citizenship.
It may be an office in Harlingen, but it takes years to get here.
"We're talking anywhere between maybe four to six years from the start the person immigrates into the U.S. to the time it takes them to become a U.S. citizen,” says Norma Limon, Field Office Director in Harlingen.
The naturalization ceremony is the final step in becoming a citizen.
On Wednesday, former KRGV reporter, Carolina Cruz, had her final interview for the citizenship process.
After a swearing in, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer asked her about where she's lived, contact information, whether she will serve her country if it's necessary. She was also given a test including U.S. history, reading and government.
Because she has been living in the U.S. since a child, Cruz was not too surprised with the results – she passed.
Living in the U.S. before applying for citizenship is part of the requirements.
"First they have to be a permanent resident for at least five years – three years if they're married to a U.S. citizen,” says Limon.
As a reporter, Cruz encountered many with whom she shared a similar upbringing.
"For me, personally, having seen the immigrants and seeing why they come here and why they journey here just makes me value that much more becoming a citizen today. Because I know that it's not a given for anybody. It's honestly an honor and it feels like coming full circle," Cruz says.
She took another oath and was granted citizenship.
This changes the responsibility she and others like her bear.
"Now they have the right to vote. Now they have the right to run for politics, where before they couldn't do that. They can also apply for a federal job. They can file for their passport. They can carry a passport just like any other American,” says Limon.
For some, like Cruz, there are other immaterial benefits that come with the new title.
"I think for a long time, as a legal permanent resident, know that you have a legal status here. You know that you're a part of the country, still there's a little bit of you that feels like an outsider. There's just something that's still missing there," she says.
A feeling of inclusiveness doesn't mean forgetting her history.
Cruz is now a dual citizen of both Colombia and the U.S.
If someone doesn't pass the exam the first time, they can get rescheduled for a second chance.
If they can't pass the test the second time, their application for citizenship is denied.