As some of you may know I am originally from Canada. I grew up on a farm in the province of Alberta, but school drew me to Kansas for college and then university. A string of opportunities presented themselves after college and my career began in the Midwest. Then I met my future husband and to Iowa I moved.
However, behind the scenes there was a lot of paperwork. Something that most people don’t think about when they see a blonde, white girl standing in front of them. Prior to meeting part of the Boy’s family, for the first time, he had told his cousin I was an immigrant. When I walked into the room she exclaimed, “She’s not Mexican!” Not quite.
So how does one enjoy everything the U.S. has to offer when you aren’t a citizen.
Well, in college it was student visas. When walking into the International office at Kansas State there would often be a very puzzled look on the receptionists face. Nope I wasn’t lost, I was Canadian.
After school, a job was offered and it was time to try and get a work visa. Luckily, I was able to obtain a work visa through NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). There are certain jobs that the U.S. has determined that qualify for the NAFTA visa, and fortunately mine was on the list. The visas were only for a year long, and you applied at customs. Yes, it was a little nerve wracking standing in the customs office, at the airport, praying that they would give you another visa so you could go back to work and your life south of the border. On the other hand it was a little comical to watch the customs agents flip through the Angus Journal to learn more about my work.
And then came marriage. Thankfully, we were able to get married when I was on my NAFTA visa. However, after our big day it was time to apply for permanent residency. Permanent residency is very similar to citizenship other than I can’t vote.
The whole process again was nerve wracking. The boy and I were married now, what if they decided sorry your time is up here? We began the process late last summer, and we didn’t talk about it much other than with family and close friends. I think we were worried we would jinx it.
First there was a stack, and I mean stack of paperwork to fill out. With questions like do you plan to practice polygamy, have you ever had weapons training, do you belong to any terrorist groups? The Boy also had to sign his life away that as my sponsor no matter what happened to our marriage he was responsible for me. I guess that was just extra reassurance beyond the “until death do us part” wedding vows. I also had to get tested for TB, be up-to-date on all my vaccinations and undergo a physical. And then there was a big check to write.
We sent off our paperwork and waited not really having any idea on how long it would take for everything to go through. And while we waited I wasn’t allowed to leave the United States. Finally, the letter came. It was time to go to Des Moines for our interview. We had been instructed that both of us could be interviewed, and the questions could range from what did you give each other for your birthdays to the color or each other’s tooth brush to much more personal questions.
Together we headed to Des Moines, and I was the first to get my name called. The interviewer was quite intrigued about how the Boy and I met. She probably doesn’t get the “we met at a cattle show” answer too much. The interview really wasn’t too intense and at the end she said, “Well we’ll be in touch with our decision, you may go.” I guess I did so well in the interview they decided they didn’t even need to talk with the Boy.
As I walked back into the waiting room and told the Boy “let’s go” he was rather confused. “What do you mean they don’t want to talk to me? I am going to tell them you are my wife and they have to let you stay.” I was just in a hurry to get out of there before they changed their minds!
We were back to waiting. And then one day shortly before Christmas 2013 another one of those official looking envelopes arrived. Inside was my welcome to America letter and a permanent resident card. The whole process was over, and I was legit!
A lot of people ask me if I will become a US citizen, and I hope to one day. You have to have your permanent residency for so long before you can apply, but I do want to be able to vote one day. I also hope to keep my Canadian citizenship and have dual that way our future children can also have both Canadian and American citizenship.
I am pretty thankful that my “immigration” story went the way it did. There were a lot of days that were full of pure frustration. I often would think to myself, “If I can’t figure out this immigration website and all this paperwork, considering I speak English and got a degree in the US, how is someone else that might be from one of those true ‘foreign’ countries supposed to figure it out.” This is a pretty amazing country, so it isn’t hard to see why others wouldn’t want to be apart of it.
So here is to a year of being a permanent resident and thanks for letting me be apart of your country.