Our swearing in ceremony took place on the 28th floor of the courthouse on a blazing hot day. Twenty applicants with friends and family milled around in a marble corridor with great views of the downtown area. We recognised three people from our citizenship test. A court official got us in line and reviewed our notice letter, driver’s license, passport, and green card, and she kept the green card. That was hard, we had to carry those cards with us at all times, they represented years of application time and document collection, we couldn’t travel without them, and they ended up on a sad little discard pile.
Before we went in, we had to sign our naturalization certificates and we were given a number. My number was one, Hubby’s was two. There was a pile of papers on each numbered seat including a copy of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and all the Amendments, and a Citizens Almanac from the Immigration service. The court was big and panelled with wood, with a high ceiling and marble table tops. There were two US flags in the court room, one on the main floor, one up by the judge. While we were waiting to start, we got instructions from the court officials on how to get passports and what would happen afterwards, then we waited for the judge to arrive.
There was a little to and fro between the judge (Charles E Rendlen III) and an attorney (Nicholas P Lewellyn), before a mezzo soprano singer sang the national anthem, then the applicants were introduced. The poor attorney had to say our names, then we would stand, repeat our names, and say where we came from and what we did. I’d been primed by an usher to speak up, and I did try. There were applicants from Togo, India, China, Vietnam, Egypt, Brazil, Turkey, Albania, and parts of the former Yugoslavia, all with interesting names. The attorney did his best. Next was a speaker, then the judge addressed us, and we had to stand, raise our right hands, and repeat the oath.
Our singer returned and sang "God Bless America" and we had to say the Pledge of Allegiance. We filed out to the front and the judge presented us with our Certificates of Naturalization and posed for photos. The League of Women Voters was waiting outside the court room to register us all as new voters (even the men), they have attended every naturalization ceremony except one for the last eight years.
We are now Americans, and registered voters, and we don’t have to deal with the INS again. In the next few weeks we have to change our Social Security records to say we’re now citizens, and get a US passport. We have to send the certificate of Naturalization off with our passport application, unless we want to drive up to Chicago and get the passport done there. The passport office is supposed to send it back to us with the passport.
We spent our first weekend as Americans running around Nashville TN with Lara and Scott, getting sunburned at the pool and trying the popsicles at Las Palettas (I had the rose petal flavour, Hubby tried the watermelon and chili pepper one). At work on Monday, the company brought in donuts and bagels and decorated the lunch room for me. Co-workers congratulated me, especially the ones who are naturalised citizens themselves.
It’s a weird feeling to have no green card in my wallet anymore. It was a constant companion for five and a half years. USCIS received our citizenship applications on February 12th, and we were sworn in on June 19th, just over four months later.