Monday, March 30, 2009

How To Become An American Citizen

After writing the stories of many individuals who have traveled to the United States for a new life in America, and the stories I have experienced, this week I decided to talk about the difficult process these individuals go through to become and American citizen.

First off, in order to become an American citizen in the first place, the U.S. Citizenship Information website says the process will take anywhere from six months to more than two years.

Applicants must first turn in an application, and then wait for a scheduled interview before the process can begin. After the interview, the applicant must wait anywhere from one day to 180 days before they have their swearing-in ceremony to receive their naturalization certificate. However, in a few Immigrations Service Office, this process can take up to an additional one to two years.

According to the U.S. Citizenship Information website, "The length of time for the entire process depends on the number of U.S. Citizenship applicants the USCIS offices receive in each state." The website also urges applicants to pay close attention when filling out their application papers because making a mistake could cost them an even longer period to wait. In addition, the website offers a do-it-yourself service that helps applicants through the entire process to help ensure they do not make any mistakes.

As follows, the website states that their are four major steps in becoming a United States citizen.

*Step One: Submit The Complete Application
-This includes obtaining two passport-size photographs, ensuring all documents are together and completely filled out, and sending all necessary documents to the right USCIS location.

*Step Two: Get Fingerprinted
-This is after the USCIS office has let the applicant know they have received the application, the acknowledgment letter will give a specific time and place to get your fingerprints that the applicant must show up for, and send any additional documents the USCIS office asks for.

*Step Three: Attend USCIS Interview & Take Tests
-The USCIS office will send a letter with a time and date for a scheduled interview, attend the interview at the correct time and place, proper identifications and further documents will be asked for, answer the interviewers questions, take the Civic Test and English Test, and lastly wait until the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services comes to an answer about your citizenship.

*Step Four: Take the Oath to Become a U.S. Citizen
-The USCIS will send a ceremony date to attend, go to the specified date and time and return your Permanent Resident Card, answer any questions they may have about what you have been doing since the interview process, take the Oath of Allegiance, receive the Certificate of Naturalization, and enjoy life as an American citizen.

These four steps make the process sound easy, but the amount of time it takes between each of the individual steps can and most likely will take years. For example, Jan Svedsen, who I wrote about in a previous blog, has been trying to gain citizenship in the United States for the past two years and still has not had his ceremony. However, some are more lucky, such as Nadja Riess, who only took about a year to go through the entire process.

Visit the U.S. Citizenship Information website to learn more about Green Cards, Replacement of U.S. Citizenship Certificates, Change of Address, USA Greencard Lottery, Green Card Employment Authorization, and Removal of Conditions on your Green card.

Also learn about the cost to become an American citizen, your status on becoming an American citizen, and more.

Watch this Video to see a Immigration lawyer's view on How to Become a U.S. Citizen

See the ceremony new American citizens attend

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Own Experience

Last week I had the opportunity to cross over the border for myself and experience a very different way of life. I took a cruise through the Mexican Riviera, leaving from Los Angeles, California and traveling to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas.

When first boarding the Princess Cruise Line, holding 3,000 passengers and 1,000 employees, I noticed that many of the employees were of ethnic heritage. When I asked our waiter, Romeo, about the different ethnicities on board he said more than half of the employees on board were from another country, including Russia, Mexico, and Canada, just to name a few.

Our first two days on board were spent at sea, and during our second day on board the activity manager asked for passengers to yell when their home country was called. When Canada was named I noticed more than half the passengers outside by the pool started chanting. When I asked a family next to us, who I noticed had been chanting, why so many Canadians were on board, they replied that travel expenses were minimal. They said to go on vacation for them right now in the state of the economy, coming from Canada to Mexico was very cheap.

After the two days at sea, our first stop was Puerto Vallarta. The staff members from the ship told us of a hotel we could go to and show our ship card, and they would allow us to use their facilities for the day. As soon as we stepped foot on the beach the little kids selling souvenirs and women selling henna tattoos and hair braiding started following our large group of college students.

When we finally made it through all the women, children, and other sales people on the beach, we entered the Krystal Hotel. Upon entering the large pool with attaching tiki style bar, I met a couple who was visiting from Canada. I asked them why they chose to come on vacation to Puerto Vallarta, and they replied that including flight and an all inclusive hotel for a week, their total price per person was $750. Can't beat that!

A video on Puerto Vallarta

The following day was spent in Mazatlan, which was the only place of the three I had not previously visited. Upon leaving the ship, there were men with machine guns and shuttles waiting to take us to the port terminal. I noticed that Mazatlan seemed like a much more industrialized city and not nearly as large as Puerto Vallarta. The large group of us piled into two large vans that took us nearly 10 minutes to the nearest beach bar. The city appeared older with a lot less college students compared to Puerto Vallarta, and the cabs were all open air taxis. When we finally reached to beach bar, the employees were ecstatic that so many of us had come, seeing that there were only around five people before we got there.

Video of Mazatlan

The following day was spend in beautiful Cabo San Lucas, where I had visited two years earlier. When we exited the ship we walked across the deck to catch a water taxi to take us to the local beach. As we approached the beach I had spent my time two years prior, I noticed the amount of people seemed far less than what I had remembered. I asked our waiter, and he said the spring break population was much less than usual. Other than that, the beach seemed the same with some additional condos being built. The beautiful beach and clear water was just as I had remembered it.

Video of Cabo San Lucas

In America, I never see little children following me around the beach trying to sell little clay turtles, nor do I see people with machine guns on a daily basis. The people in Mexico were very friendly and receptive to us spring break kids, mainly because a lot of their money comes from our yearly visits during the spring break time. The difference in the way of life and culture between Mexico and America is drastic, but I have learned to appreciate both in their own ways.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Kind Of My Own

When thinking of people to interview this week, I thought it would be interesting to do a little research about my own family history. I am 98 percent Irish, and have a long line of Irish ancenstors. My grandma, Carolyn Connolly Rogers, was happy to talk with me about her grandmother, Mary McSorley, who immigrated to America from Ireland, and the memories she still has of her grandmother from when she was young. Here is what my grandmother was able to share with me about my great, great grandmother.

Mary McSorley came to the United States with her sister, Cassie, where they left their entire family back in Ireland to start a new life in America. Alone, the two girls traveled by boat, Cassie was 12, and Mary was only 10.

Mary grew up in County Armagh, located in Northern Ireland. She was part of a large, but very poor family who could not afford much out of life. They knew their only option for a better life was to pack up and move to America, only knowing of distant relatives in Chicago, Illinois.

After many years, while visiting Canada, Mary met her husband, John Arthur Connolly, another Irish man. She became Mary McSorley Connolly. They settled in Waterloo, Iowa where he started making carriages in the late 1800's.

"My early recollections of her was that she never talked much, and when she did she talked with an Irish brogue." An Irish brogue is an Irish accent that my grandmother said was extremely hard to understand.

In addition, she was very short, heavy set, and would wear silk dresses that would hang to her ankles. "Nobody dressed up then," said Rogers laughing.

Her husband was considered one of the wealthiest men of Norteast Iowa at one time, and although they had much hired help, "Everytime I went to the house, she was always ironing," said Rogers.

Together, they had five children where she was left to take care of them during the day, while John was working at the carriage factory.

At nightime, she would always serve mashed potatoes and "lots of dessert...they love their dessert," said Rogers laughing, adding that her grandmother would read the coffee grounds like a palm reader reads a palm. "She thought she could detect your future by studying your coffee grounds," said Rogers laughing.

"She was involved with our family and loved us very much, but she just wasn't very social," said Rogers. In addition, she worked a lot with the Catholic Church and donated a lot of time with them.

"Her dream was to go back to Ireland, but she never made it back," said Rogers. Although she had the money to go, the means 0f transportation back then were not nearly what they are today. There was no air travel, and the only way was by boat, which to her was not convenient.

After a hard life of living in poverty in Ireland, and coming to America for a new and wonderful life, she passed away after a stroke in the comfort of her own home at the age of 90.

Below is a documentary on Irish immigration to America.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Story Waiting To Be Told

This past week I had the experience to interview a man by the name of Dr. George Nachich.  What a fascinating story that in my mind, was just waiting to be told.  I came in contact with Dr. Nachich through my sister.  This fascinating man just happens to be the grandfather, or Deda as they call him, of my sister's boyfriend.  I had heard them talk of the incredible history behind Dr. Nachich, and I thought I would interview him for myself and share his story with all  of you.

Dr. George Nachich was born in Belgrade, Serbia where his family owned a large department store in the city.  However, during World War II the store went under after Nachich's family lent too much money to people with bad credit.  

When Nachich entered his late teens, he entered a military academy.  Then, one day, he was captured by the Germans and made a prisoner of war during World War II.  He was only 18-years-old when he was captured and forced in a work camp.  

At first, he was intended to work for the Germans as a translator. However, after realizing he did not want to work on the side of the Germans, he pretended his German was not good enough for their use.

Then, one day, Nachich was hiding in a barn when he happened to look outside and thought to himself, why are there a group of soldiers outside?  He thought the soldiers had a plan to bomb the barn, and therefore, he made an escape.  

It was not until five years later that the war was finally over and Nachich was no longer a prisoner of war.

After the war, he had an opportunity to travel anywhere in the world to attend school on the government's expense.  It was at that time Nachich traveled to Bonn, Germany to become a General Surgeon.  He was able to attend school and practice medicine in German, a language far from his native one. 

Nachich during his days as a General Surgeon

Nachich speaks over ten languages, and said, "If you are interested, you can learn anything."

After his studies were finished, he made his way to Chicago, Illinois through a program related to his Serbian Orthodox Church.  

"I left my family to move to America," said Nachich.  He said he did not know much about Chicago before moving there, but loved it once he got there.

Upon moving to Chicago, he became a General Surgeon where he later opened up his own large practice where he worked up into his 80's.  

Nachich at work

Nachich met his wife while he was working one day in Chicago.  He said it was not customary in Belgrade for a doctor to marry a nurse, but he did so regardless to the women he is still married to today.  Together, they have five children and now have several grandchildren with whom they stay in close contact with.   

In response to asking him what he misses most about life in Europe, he said people enjoy culture more in Europe, and during his time of living in Belgrade, going out and living was not very expensive.  

He said when his mother was alive he would go back and visit often, but after she passed away the amount of trips decreased and instead would go and visit other family members and friends.  

Nachich visiting his older sister during a visit back to Belgrade.

Nachich and his wife reside in Chicago, Illinois, but spend the bitter cold winters in sunny Florida.  
"You have a dream and I will never forget that dream," said Nachich of his dream of moving to America, adding that, "I miss living in Europe because of my family, but I like America very much."

This is a video of another prisoner of war during World War II, and an account of his experience.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Experiencing Many Different Cultures

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago, Illinois in hopes of moving there once I graduate from the University of Arizona in May.  I had been to Chicago nearly two years ago, but this trip was entirely different, mostly because it was snowing and 20 degrees most of the  time.  However, during this trip, my goal was to pay close attention to the different ethnicities and cultures that surround the entire city of Chicago.  

During my three day visit, I visited and ate at five different ethnic restaurants, including Japanese, Irish, Greek, Spanish, and Italian.  My sister, who lives in Chicago, asked my friend and I if we wanted to try Mexican food, Turkish food, Lithuanian food, and many other different styles of food during our stay.  I thought to myself, not only is there every type of food possible in this city, but each different ethnicity has their own small section of the city.  

For example, on Saturday we took the brown line train to Greek town.  As we excited the train, the street was lined with Greek restaurants on either side as far as I could see.  Greek children and families swarmed the streets, and in the restaurant we ate at, we appeared to be the only non-Greeks, and I began to feel a little out of place.  I asked our waitress if everyone who worked in the restaurant was from Greece, and she replied "yes."  When I asked her why she left Greece, she replied that "It is a beautiful country, but I knew there was  so much more opportunity for me in America."  

Later in the evening we visited a Spanish tapas restaurant called Cafe Ba Ba Reeba.  This experience was much different from my time in Greek town because everyone who worked at the restaurant was Spanish, I asked our waiter, but the people who were enjoying the fabulous food did not appear ethnic at all.     

Nearly 75 percent of Chicago's population is Latino, and according to the Chicago U.S. census bureau other prominent ethnic groups include, Irish (201,836), German (200,392), Polish (179,868), Italian (96,599), and English (60,307).

As for a little history of why the city of Chicago has such a large ethnic population, it started in the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, where 39 million people visited Chicago for the "International wonderland of innovative architecture, science and industry." 

Chicago still remains one of the largest diverse culture places in the world.  Even the cab drivers I met during the weekend were of all different cultures and ethnicities.

Upon coming home, I sat down on the plane next to a man from South Africa.  He was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Upon graduating from high school, he had the opportunity to come to the United States and study nuclear physics.  He told me there were several cultural differences between his life in South Africa and in America.  He said although he misses his home town, he loves America and plans to reside here.  

I learned during my visit that I am not the only person who has dreamed of moving to Chicago in hopes for a different life, but people from all over the world have thought the same thing.  I was able to experience many different cultures during my visit, and I look forward to experiencing many more when I move. Please read next week when I talked about an interesting individual by  the name of George Nachich who lives in Chicago but was born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia and was captured by  the Germans during World War I.   

This video gives a better understanding of the Mexican culture in Chicago.