Article by Patrick Donaldson
I left Australia many years ago to pursue a dream job of working for a Middle Eastern royal family as one of their private chefs. I did not know it at the time, but that decision to leave Australia and my family would forever change me, and make my family grow. In the first few months of moving to Bahrain, I met an awesome US Sailor.
My best friend, and now wife, was a friend of my neighbor. She PCS’d back to the US and then was deployed to Iraq. After she returned from Iraq, she come out to Bahrain to visit me and some friends she still had on the island. This is when we discussed me moving to the US. I knew it was going to be a long road, but really didn’t get how long until we started the process.
We married in 2007 and I had to return to finish my contracts to the Royal Family. While i was gone for the final three months, we started getting all of our paperwork for my immigration to the US. WOW, what an eye opener! I still have all of our copies of the forms and related documents. They fill an entire filing cabinet drawer. I came to the DC area in early 2008. Once I got here I quickly learned what “hurry up and wait” meant.
It took about four months to get a work permit, temporary residence (while waiting for my green card), social security number and drivers license. I was happy to get them. It then meant i could start looking for a job, get a bank account, drive myself around and feel a little more complete. I’m not sure why I wanted a bank account so badly, most of the money I had saved to come to the US went in fees to pay immigration. At this point I think we had spent around $5000. I also had to have medicals and immunizations that had to come from a specific doctor authorized by USCIS.
When I spoke about my immigration, most people assumed I was able to enter free and with little hassle because I had married a citizen. Not so much. Immigration can be expedited, but at a fee. I became eligible for Citizenship three years after I received my Green Card. Earlier this year I got my packet together and all my supporting documents, and was able to send it to the government.
The exam and interview had me a little nervous, though I am lucky that I come from an English speaking background. The exam consists of a reading, writing and speaking test, all in English, then an additional exam on the history and civics of the US.
To prepare, I asked some of my friends, most of them military, the questions they would ask-and suprisingly not everyone can answer them. To study, I was given a series of 100 questions, knowing that on the exam they would select a random ten questions and I would have to answer six correctly. I knew that if I passed the exam, I would be asked to take an oath and hand back my Australian Passport.
I am excited and a little sad at the same time. America is now my home. We own a house here. We have two awesome boys and one crazy accent. Ten years ago when I left Australia, I never thought that I wouldn’t go back to live there. Yet, I would do it all over again. I love this country. And, I support and respect the Military that has given our family so much.
It turned out that my nervousness was unwarranted. I scored 100% on my civics exam and flew through my english test to read and write a sentence in English. On the day I was told that more information was needed and had to wait a few days until they let me know my results. A few days later I was notified that the government would schedule my oath ceremony. I did it!!
It takes a really long time, and a lot of commitment and trust in your relationship to go through this process. Sometimes there feels like there is no end in sight, other times it feels like everyone has a hand out.
At the ceremony, which was very small, my family got to watch as i took my oath and became a citizen. It was a little strange; walking in Australian, walking out American. It’s been a month and i don’t think it has really sunk in yet. I am proud of my new country, proud that i can participate with civic duties.
I am proud that i get to call the USA home.