Monday, June 3, 2013

Michael Becomes a Citizen!

In case you missed it, back in April, we hired a great new TypeStylist named Michael. He's been doing a great job and we love having him around! Shortly after he started working here, Michael, who's originally from Colombia, was awarded his US citizenship! Here's what he had to say about it all:

Where are you from, originally?
I was born in Medellin, the second largest city in Colombia. Colombia is located in the northwestern part of South America, with a population of 46 million. Medellin is located in the mountains and it actually looks a lot like Atlanta, but it’s still a small city compared to any metropolitan area in the United States.

When and why did you first come to the United States?
My parents got divorced when I was very little, and my dad moved to Miami in the 90's. I used to go to Miami to spend my summer vacations with him and his new family after he re-married. My dad died, but my grandmother was still living in Miami, so I later came to her house after graduating from college, since I wanted to learn English before entering the "work force". I stayed for 6 months. I took English classes and came back to Medellin. Then, I fell in love and wanted to marry (my now wife), but I did not have the best job... so I figured that I could come back to the US one more time and try to find a better paying job that could also give me a work permit, and eventually a permanent residence status (green card). After doing odd jobs, I found a place that was willing to sponsor me. All this was around 2003. So, I think the best answer to as to why is that I had a dream of a better life, a place where I could grow a family, a place where I could interact with more cultures and people from different backgrounds, a country where there would be more opportunities for me and eventually for my children, with better schools and safer communities. I found that in the United States from the very first time that I came for vacations in Miami back in the '90s.

How long have you been working on obtaining your citizenship?
Since I got my work permit. The citizenship was the final step of the process. So, it was just a matter of time and being a good resident. Any trouble with the law would eventually lead to a removal or deportation. Also, being employed and taking care of your financial issues is important, so you do not end up being a "dependent" of the government, but rather, a productive, tax-paying force. It takes around 2 years of having a work permit before you can apply for your permanent residence. Once the 2 years went by, the approval process took me around 2 years. Then you have to wait 5 years before you can apply to become a US citizen. Then, it takes around 6-8 months to get an interview and finally get a notice for your oath ceremony. So, it’s probably been around 10 years in the making.

Was the process very difficult and/or strenuous?
I always hired the best lawyers that I could afford, so they help me a lot along the way. There is a lot of paperwork that you have to fill out throughout the process and you have to keep records and proofs. But it was more about the time that it takes. At the end, I see it more as a "probationary period" on which you have to prove that you would be a good citizen, that you deserve to be here.

How do you feel now that you’re officially a citizen?
Pure joy. Life is short and it has its milestones: your graduation, your wedding, when you have a child, when you climb a big mountain. Becoming a citizen of the U.S. was one of them. Being a U.S citizen, for me, is being part of one of the greatest countries in the world, so I felt that I had accomplished something big. It was a dream come true, a dream that I had for many years and that changed my life and hopefully the lives of the generations to come after me. Now, I can tell to my daughter to keep dreaming, because dreams do come true.

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