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An English rose in Georgia
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Many American citizens do not realize how lucky they are having all the rights that citizenship entails. I am delighted to have a coveted Green Card, but the process involved is mind-boggling.
The logical place to start would be getting permission to legally live here as a “resident alien” (not a flattering term I think, but oh well).
By the time I applied for U.S. residency in 2009, I had been married to an American citizen for nine years, though we’d lived the first part of our married life in England. So I was spared the suspicion around the reasons for our marriage that apparently aliens are subjected to if married to a U.S. citizen for less than two years.
The paperwork is very detailed and takes forever. And sadly the threat of terrorism in the world today has increased the need for ever more rigorous checks.
I am not going to list every tortuous step of the way, but some of the following stand out as highlights – or low points – in the months-long process:
• Standing in line (I had to learn to say that rather than queuing) at 7 a.m. in the rain in London with my husband at the American Embassy.
• Not knowing how to give fingerprints as is required. When I told the lovely lady working for the immigration service I was boring, as I had never been fingerprinted in my life, she told me the American Immigration Service liked boring.
• Listing the 49 times I had been to America as a visitor – in detail.
• The medical check-up at a clinic in London chosen by the American Embassy, which is the same procedure for every applicant apparently.
I understood the need for extensive health questionnaires, blood tests to prove I do not have AIDS or syphilis and the chest X-ray to validate my TB-free status. But my jaw dropped when the doctor said “please drop your panties” (we call them knickers in England to add to my confusion).
Apparently, they have to confirm your biological gender because there have been cases of men wearing flowing robes and pretending to be female.
• The moment the immigration official at the Atlanta airport asked me to swear the oath and congratulated me on achieving residency – which made it all worthwhile – I was so happy I cried.
And by the way, I cannot wait to apply for my citizenship in 2012.
God Bless America!

Francis grew up in London and moved to Richmond Hill in 2009. She can be reached at

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