Immigrating to the United States is an extremely tedious and intimidating process that that can take years, and potentially change the minds of those who wish to immigrate.
The U.S. is a country that was built on immigration; technically everyone living here today is the product of that. However, the topic of immigration can be controversial and people have varying opinions.
Today, more than 40 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country. The U.S. immigrant population represents almost every single country in the world. According to the Pew Research Center’s statistics, around 77% of immigrants in the U.S. are here legally, while almost a quarter are unauthorized.
There are several requirements for a person to become a legal U.S. citizen. For example, they must start by being a lawful permanent resident for at least five years. You also must be able to read, write and speak basic English. Additionally, you need to take an exam with questions about U.S. history, the Constitution, government, civics and more.
A PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF THE IMMIGRATION EXPERIENCE
To get a personal anecdote of the immigration experience in the U.S., I spoke with my Aunt, Judith Stone. Stone was born and raised in a city in Netherlands called Breda. She met my uncle while both of them were traveling in Guam, and he eventually asked her to move to the U.S. with him.
At age 27, she arrived in the U.S. and spoke almost no English. She received her green card, and after five years she renewed it for another 10 years. According to Stone, “After that I figured it was probably easier to have dual citizenship … So after 15 years, I became a U.S. citizen and I am now five years an American Citizen.”
I asked Stone about some of the cultural differences she faced when moving to the U.S. The first thing she pointed out was how different humor is in the U.S. compared to Europe. She stated: “In the European lifestyle things aren’t as serious as the are here in many cases. … I had to learn the hard way with some of the things I would say to people that they took the wrong way.”
I had to learn the hard way with some of the things I would say to people that they took the wrong way.
I also asked how difficult it was with the language barrier, especially when she spoke almost no English when arriving in the U.S. She told me, “When I first got here, I didn’t know what anyone was saying and I couldn’t respond. I felt helpless, even sitting at a family dinner, I would never know what the family was laughing about or even talking about for many months.”
THE PROCESS AND LOOKING FORWARD
One of the most difficult aspects of the immigration process can often be the required exams. These exams cover everything from amendments from the constitution, to past U.S. presidents. I remember around six years ago watching my aunt study for her citizenship exam, and how nerve-wracking it was for her.
According to Stone, “Studying for the immigration test was one of the hardest things I had to do. I had to memorize facts that I’m sure most Americans don’t even know, like knowing every president.”
Studying for the immigration test was one of the hardest things I had to do.
Becoming a U.S. citizen is no easy feat. It requires being proficient in one of the hardest languages, having extensive knowledge of U.S. history, and much more.