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Becoming American

The first time I visited the US was in September of 2013. My now-spouse and I were then in a long-distance relationship. While I found Chicago to be an exciting city, I only had eyes for Edgar at that time. In October, he chose to leave everything behind and move to Barcelona to live together. I'm very grateful he made that decision, as coming to America wasn't originally part of my plans. A year later, we got married.

As time passed, the lack of job availability and the prospect of earning a third of his US income didn't satisfy my husband. I had also become tired of relying on dead-end jobs to make ends meet, even if those jobs involved using my translation skills and speaking foreign languages. Although we had a good life overall, we both wanted to get out of our comfort zone and pursue our dreams.

I tried to live solely off translation for years. A lack of support and a financial/political crisis had been preventing me from achieving that goal. I ended up falling prey to self-doubt. I had become a bitter whiner who was jealous of those that were getting promoted and recognized professionally. Then, I realized I had been resting on my laurels for a while, so I stopped blaming others. It was time to take action.

One day, a co-worker asked me if I ever considered immigrating to the US since I was married to an American citizen. At first, I dismissed the idea. I was hoping things would take a turn for the better in Catalonia. However, my husband had been missing his homeland for a while. If he had come to be with me, why wouldn't I return the favor? It could be a win-win, so we began exploring our options to relocate.

The first step of the immigration process was filing the I-130 petition for immediate relatives. The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) approved it and forwarded it to the National Visa Center (NVC). In March of 2016, six months after we initially mailed the paperwork, my case was ready to go to the US Embassy in Madrid. In April, I got a date for my visa interview.

In June, I underwent a mandatory physical examination and attended the interview at the US Embassy. I was asked a few questions, and my immigrant visa was approved on the spot. By mid-July, we had landed in Chicago (Edgar's hometown). As weeks went by, I was assigned a Social Security number and received my conditional green card, which was originally valid for two years. I was officially a US resident!

Adjusting to life in America was no easy task. I spent the first months figuring out how to make a living as an independent contractor. I created and edited my marketing materials, including this website and blog. I joined professional associations, attended events, and sent countless emails. I worked as a pet sitter on the side when I wasn't getting translation work regularly. I went through several trial and error situations.

By the second half of 2017, I had earned the American Translators Association (ATA) Certification for the English into Spanish language pair. That helped me get freelance work consistently. My client portfolio began to grow. I even worked as an in-house linguist and project manager for a local company in 2018, but I realized that I felt more comfortable working for myself full-time. My dream had finally come true!

Because Edgar and I had been married for less than two years when we came to the US, I had to file the I-751 petition to remove the green card conditions by July of 2018. Once the USCIS received it, the validity of my green card was extended until January of 2020. There was no more news until March of 2019 when I received a letter asking me to attend a biometrics appointment. Processing times had apparently increased.

In April of 2019, I decided to apply for naturalization on the two years and nine months anniversary of my entry to the US as an immigrant. I was eligible to file the N-400 petition under the three-year rule. My I-751 was still pending, so I requested that they both could be handled together. My goal was to be done with the process before my conditional green card extension expired. In May, I went to another biometrics appointment.

We relocated to Salt Lake City in June as Edgar had decided to change careers and become a professional genealogist. Because I work from home, moving is not an issue as long as I have my computer and an Internet connection. Meanwhile, my immigration cases went dormant until October. I was then invited to attend an interview at the local USCIS office in late November.

The first part of the interview dealt with the I-751 petition, which was approved after a few questions and providing some more paperwork. Then, we went through the N-400 petition and the infamous English and Civics Test:

– First, I had to read, "What do we have to pay to the government" and write, "We pay taxes." I assume that the USCIS officer had already determined at this point that I was able to speak and understand English.

– Then, I had to answer at least six out of ten questions correctly about the government, the history, the geography, the symbols, and the holidays of the United States. These were the questions:

  • What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution? – The Bill of Rights

  • How many US Senators are there? – One hundred (100)

  • Name one branch or part of the government – The Congress

  • There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them: – Citizens eighteen (18) and older (can vote)

  • The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the US Constitution. Name one of the writers: – (James) Madison

  • Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived? – Native Americans

The USCIS officer, who happened to a very nice guy, approved my naturalization application and submitted it for quality review. The whole experience was smooth and easy-going. There was even room for laughs and some fun!

Days later, I received my permanent green card and the notice for the oath ceremony, which took place today at the Jeanné Rose Wagner Theatre in Salt Lake City. The ceremony lasted around 1.5 hours. There were 118 applicants from 40 countries. As soon as I was sworn in as a citizen, I registered to vote and requested my US passport.

I chose to call the United States of America my home for many reasons, such as:

– Not having to be subject to changing immigration laws that could affect my permanent residency and potentially put me in an uncertain situation.

– To be able to participate in the country that I call home fully and enjoy certain rights and responsibilities, such as voting or serving on a jury.

– To live in a real democracy where: a) people have freedom of speech, b) no one is over the law, c) there's a real separation of powers, and d) people don't go to prison for expressing their beliefs or having certain political convictions.

Most importantly, I've become a US citizen to say thank you for welcoming me and giving me all the personal and professional growth opportunities that my country of origin couldn't provide. They don't call this country the land of opportunity for nothing!

I'm very grateful to all the people (family, friends, colleagues, etc.) that have supported me over the years. I'd also like to acknowledge the following people:

Rozalija Radović—Edgar's maternal great-great-grandmother who left Croatia in 1900 to come to America. Edgar and I would never be here if it weren't for her. Your memory will always be a blessing, baka. Hvala!

KiKi Mosley—an outstanding and attentive immigration attorney based in Chicago. She helped us navigate the first steps of the immigration path when we were still in Barcelona. Thank you for your work!

And last, but not least, I'd like to thank Edgar for always being there, for teaching me to believe in myself, and for encouraging me to be a better person every day. I look forward to the future together in the land of the free and the home of the brave.


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