I just finished inputting ten pages of information into my N-400 Application for Naturalization request/form. Some of the questions elicited, “well yeah of course” while others got a snort and a teeny, smidgeny burp of indignation.
Part I: Your Name
What do we call you? And what does everyone else call you? And then is that different from what you were called at birth? And is that what you want to be called? Seems to me this is a vast improvement from what happened at Ellis Island – Name? Wladimir Brunckywisckeicz. OK, welcome to America, Walter Brown. But what is this large box to the right? “Remarks” for use by USCIS only? What are you going to put there? “Seems sincere” or “name suits her” or something like that? I hate the word remark. And yes, OK, I understand you need ALL the names I went as, but I really don’t like to even write it anymore. It’s painful.
Part II: Information About Your Eligibility
Well, we’ve got three options here: 1) lawful permanent resident of the US for five years. 2) lawful permanent resident of the US for AT LEAST three years, AND I have been living with and married to the same US citizen for the last three years, AND my spouse has been a US citizen for the past three years. Or; 3) I am applying on the basis of qualifying military service.
…Those are my only options? Be a resident for five years, or be married to a citizen AND a resident for 3 years? And it has to be the same citizen I live with and married? OR… join one of the Armed Forces and hopefully make it out in one piece and not ruined with PTSD and guilt.
See, right there, there has got to be some give and take. This nation is huge, and there should be alternative methods about how to qualify.
Part III: Information About You
Yes, it’s all well and good, my name, birthdate, social security number – those are pretty commonplace. But now you’re asking about my birth country and nationality? What if they’re different? Is that good or bad? And my parents’ citizenship? My marital status? It’s good, actually, every marriage has its peaks and valleys and right now we’re at a high point. Oh, right, just “married” is good enough. Sorry. And no, I’m not requesting a waiver of my civics test based on anything. I would love to show I know enough about the country and constitution so that you would WANT me to vote or be on a jury!
Part IV: Address and Telephone
Wait a minute… see what you’ve done there? You snuck in an “e-mail address” line too… yes, I guess that’s an address…but are you going to stalk me? Check out my correspondence? Trust me, you’re going to be very bored. I LONG for some good SPAM.
And here’s where it gets INTERESTING and/or HUMOUROUS…
Part V: Information for Criminal Records Search
I start to sweat, even though I don’t have a criminal record. Parking tickets? Traffic offenses? Calling 911 to report suspicious activity or a neighbor’s loud music?
Gender, height, weight (is that criminal?), Race (and there is a separate question for Are You Hispanic or Latino?), hair and eye color (do I go with my Bride-of-Frankenstein-Paulie-Walnuts-striped salt n pepa or the usually coiffed dark chestnut brown?) (And are my eyes hazel? I consider them green, with an amber ring around the pupil, but there isn’t a checkbox for that.)
Part VI: Information About Your Residence and Employment
Where have I lived for the past 5 years? Good thing this wasn’t 20 years ago in Boston… seriously I changed addresses like underwear. It wouldn’t have looked very good. Right now, it’s only three places in five years and just thinking about THAT exhausts me.
And another good thing that the Walt Disney Company encompasses many different divisions – 8 different ones in ten years – I would have needed an extra sheet.
Part VII: Time Outside the United States (Including trips to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean)
Imma stop ya right there. Anyone filling out this form who DOESN’T THINK ANY ONE OF THESE COUNTRIES LISTED IS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES should not pass go or collect $200 or your certificate of naturalization. That is all.
So, yes, including the last, big, sad, wrenching trip… 42 days outside of the US, all to Canada. Weird, when you add it all up like that. I have got to get me a travel agent and start doing the trips I’ve dreamed of. Got to. No offense, Canada, but there’s a whole world out there. Literally.
Part VIII: Information About Your Marital History:
How many times have you been married? Were they a citizen? Were they married before you and was it to a citizen? Annulment, Divorce, Death? Hey now, marriage is hard enough, I don’t need to put the whole citizenship/which side of the bed do you sleep on with it. (And PS, these sets of questions were two out of the ten pages.)
Part IX: Information About Your Children:
Part X: Additional Questions (Sections A-H)
Section A: HAVE YOU EVER (now this is getting like a weird game of Truth or Dare) (most of them tax-related or claming royalty titles, etc.
Section B: Affiliations – do you belong to any parties, clubs, societies, Communists, Terrorists, Nazis, Tea Party (no, that wasn’t really listed, I just added Tea Party) No. I have no life.
Section C: Residence (YES!!!!)
Section D: Good Moral Character (Oh shit… I’m out).
Habitual drunkard? Prostitute (well now, wait, does that include acting?)? Arrests, Probation, Parole? Drug Smuggler, Bigamist, Gambler, Alimony Shirker? (Considering the number of people born here that do these, shouldn’t you be applauding me by now?)
Sections E, F, G: Deportation, Military Service, Selective Service Registration (Wait, there’s still a draft?)
Section H: Oath Requirements
And here, this is where I get choked up and teary. Because, yes, I do support the Constitution and form of Government of the United States. I understand the Oath of Allegiance and of course, would take it. I have concerns with, but would bear arms for the protection of the country and would perform non-combatant work in times of war. I will protect to my best this country from all enemies, foreign and DOMESTIC (sorry, did I shout there?) Because I really do believe that united we are absolutely indivisible, and that there should be liberty and justice for all. This country has given me a lot. If that means I’ve got to register to vote and sign up and do jury duty…hells yeah, I’m there.
It’s just going to take a little while stumbling around in the dark, barking our shins on the coffee table, before we turn on the light switch we always knew was there.