YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Sixty-eight foreign nationals from 25 countries took the Oath of Allegiance at the Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka's (CFAY) Chapel of Hope April 23, officially becoming American citizens during a naturalization ceremony.
Of the 68 who took the oath, 36 were active-duty service members from both the Navy and Marine Corps, 29 more were military spouses, and three were children of service members.
The ceremony kicked off with a special message from President Barack Obama congratulating the attendees on their achievement of becoming American citizens and thanking them for their service.
Because of their service in the armed forces, the attendees were able to apply for naturalization under special guidelines. Outlined in section 328 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Non U.S. citizens serving in the U.S. armed forces are authorized to become naturalized under special provisions. One of those provisions includes serving one year of honorable service. Most installations provide resources to aid Sailors and Marines through the process.
"The process was somewhat challenging being underway on a ship at the time I was filling out my application," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class (AW) Boris Petrov.
According to Petrov, the wait was worth it because now that he is a U.S. citizen the opportunities to advance his career are endless.
Petrov was born in Bulgaria and arrived in the U.S. in 2001 with his stepfather. He spent almost two years applying for citizenship.
Since 2004 over 800 citizens have taken the Oath of Allegiance during naturalization ceremonies, which are held twice a year at CFAY.
Sailors and Marines who attended came from countries throughout the world and serve at installations throughout Japan.
"I come from a very small island and everyone usually goes in the Army, but my sister was in the Marines, and that's what made me join," said Marine Corps Cpl. Kuuipo Trepanier, a native of America Samoa. "American Samoa is a U.S. territory, so I have always been a U.S. National, but you don't get all the same benefits as being a U.S. citizen. I always wanted to be an American, and it's a great feeling to know that I am a U.S. citizen now."
Trepanier traveled from her post at Camp Zukeran, Okinawa to take the Oath in Yokosuka.
Each year the U.S. accepts immigrants from countries all over the world. The three main countries of immigration are currently Mexico, India, and the Philippines. In 2008, a record 1,046,539 people were naturalized as U.S. citizens.
For more news from Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, visit www.navy.mil/local/cfay/.