This is what we received in the mail today:
Since Billy and I have been married at least three years (well... 5 and a half, but who's counting?) and he's been a legal permanent resident for more than three years, he is eligible to become a naturalized citizen. And today our lawyer mailed us the study guide.
"Why become a citizen?" you may ask. "What's the difference between that and a legal permanent resident?"
There's a lot of difference of opinion about whether the citizenship is worth the effort, money, and (I think, more importantly) the emotional and identity shifts. In fact, many immigrants proudly announce that they will never become citizens. And I understand that sentiment. An LPR has the right to work, live, travel, open a bank account, buy a house... pretty much everything.
So why go for the next step? I can only tell you our reasons.
Whereas the green card (the document confirming one's legal permanent residence in the States) used to be approved indefinitely, it now has to be renewed every 10 years. This means if Billy were to commit a crime, he could potentially "lose" his status. Now... before you get nervous... that's not really our main concern.
More importantly, Billy has always worried that a sharp shift in politics could change laws. And the expiration date on his green card allows an administration to decide they will no longer renew these documents. As we know, immigration is a controversial and heated issue, and sentiments about the topic often sway directly in relationship with economics and media. Knowing that you'll always have to renew leaves space for some doubt, especially when you are from a Central American country.
This is truly the main difference between an LPR and a citizen: the right to vote. Citizens (including myself) often take this prividlege for granted. But Billy has been disappointed to have to stand by and watch campaign ads smear immigrants, call them names, and spread fear without the opportunity and recourse of being able to vote in the elections. So many immigrants do not even have voting as an option that Billy feels compelled to take the next step to share his voice.
Okay, he really couldn't care less about this part. But it is the other difference between what you can do as an LPR and a citizen. Of course, this citizen is still waiting for her moment in the jury box!
So now we study. Billy was quizzing me tonight, and it seems I can keep my passport. I surprised myself with details I could remember from the 6th grade. His source of knowledge was a little different: "I've seen enough action movies to know that the President serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the military."
No worries. We definitely seem good to go.
What do you remember from Civics Class? Ever had experience with the Naturalization Test? Any advice?