My Journey to Citizenship
A Sailor's path from boot camp to U.S. citizen
Afternoon strolls in the park have become a staple in our family and it's how we choose to enjoy the later days of spring. Watching the slow shuffling of the leaves, swayed by gentle winds, has a calming effect on us.
It seems that time has slowed down a little, and I'm enjoying every moment I spend with my loved ones. "Be careful Jacob!" my beautiful wife Cristina shouts, as we watch our oldest son run ahead of us while I carry my 5-month-old daughter, Juliana, in my arms.
Bringing my family here to the United States to live with me permanently is a privilege I am enjoying sooner than I could have ever imagined.
I moved from the Philippines to the U.S. in the spring of 2010 as a legal permanent resident. I had reluctantly left my almost 2-year-old son, Jacob, and his mother, my girlfriend at the time, behind in the Philippines to look for better opportunities here in the U.S. I wanted to live the American dream and I knew there would be a lot of struggles and trials while I pursued it. We knew from the very beginning that it would take a few years before my family and I would be reunited in the states and we would have to sacrifice a lot and learn to live with being separated for a very long time.
"Do you want to be a citizen?" My older sister asked me one night while I was cleaning and preparing dinner. I was staying with her temporarily until I got my own place and I helped around the house as much as I could as an expression of my gratitude.
"Yes I do, but it's going to take me awhile to be eligible to apply; besides I just got here," I said. She continued, "but I know some Filipino immigrants in California who became citizens within a year after they joined the military."
I could hardly contain my excitement as I eagerly asked her for more information.
We drove to the only military recruiting station in Charlottesville, Virginia, and met with Navy Chief Career Counselor Gregory Boone. He explained everything that I needed to know about joining the Navy and gave me all the necessary paperwork to help me begin my journey. He also helped us connect with the right point of contact (POC) to assist me with my application for citizenship. By August of 2010, I was in the Navy's delayed entry program and was set to ship out to Great Lakes, Illinois, for boot camp in March 2011.
As a legal permanent resident in the United States, I was eligible to apply for naturalization after five years of consecutive physical presence in the continental U.S. Normally, these fees are paid out of pocket. Since I applied for expedited naturalization through active-duty service, the fees were waived and I discovered that the process is faster base because of Executive Order 13269, which was signed by President George W. Bush in 2002. This order allows expedited naturalization for aliens and non-citizen nationals serving in an active-duty status beginning Sept. 11, 2001.