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My Husband’s Story as a Naturalized U.S. Citizen

Thank you SEIU for sponsoring this post.

I grew up in a small town in northeast Tennessee where everyone knew everybody. If you moved into town from somewhere else, everyone noticed. My husband grew up in this same town, but not at birth. He moved into our small little town at the age of 10 with his brother and parents.

He went to a different middle school than me, so I didn’t get to know him and his brother until they had lived here for four years. He developed an east Tennessee accent, ran around with his group of friends, and played football in high school. He was just another one of the boys, as far as I was concerned.

We weren’t really close in high school, reconnecting years later on social media, but have now been married for 13 years. I’ve learned a lot about culture (both his and mine) and a lot about how our country works, compared to others.

You see, my husband was born in the Philippines, and while he came to the United States when he was 10 years old, it took nine years for him to become a U.S. citizen. In all honesty, I never even really thought about how important U.S. citizenship was until we were married and had conversations about how his life played out in his younger years.

His story is long, almost 40 years long, but I’d love to share some of those informative years with you in this short story and just how important it has been for him to be a U.S. citizen.

My husband’s parents came to the United States when he was 5 years old. They moved to the United States and left their two sons, at ages 5 and 6 years old, behind in the Philippines to give them a better life. I cannot imagine the sacrifice that took! They didn’t see their sons for 5 years.

My husband lived with his grandmother, in the Philippines, until he was 10 years old. That’s when my husband and his brother flew on an airplane, by themselves, halfway around the world at 10 and 11 years old. That’s what age my girls are now, and I just can’t imagine them doing that!

Rob, my husband, didn’t know much English when he arrived in the U.S., but since he was so young, he picked it up and learned the language relatively fast. He was always a fast learner and worked to make friends and excel in school. He played multiple sports and was an overall excellent student.

In our high school, we had the opportunity to take dual-enrollment classes our senior year. This meant that not only did we get high school credit for classes towards our graduation, but we also received college credit from the courses, as well. This program was through a local community college and was a great way to start college with our first semester already done!

Unfortunately, this was one of the first times my husband and his family ran into an issue with not being naturalized U.S. citizens yet. The cost of this program was going to be significantly higher for him because he would be considered an “out of state” tuition student. So even though he grew up here, and was just as much as a Tennesseean as I was, he wasn’t considered an in-state resident as far as college tuition went. While I went on to earn my entire first semester of college while I was still in high school, he couldn’t, which definitely put  him at a disadvantage when starting a public university.

In fact, there are several advantages to becoming a U.S. citizen that you might not be aware of, or like me, take for granted because you don’t realize.

  • You can bring family to the U.S. faster. While this wasn’t the case of my husband’s family initially, my mother-in-law has been able to bring close family members like her mother and father to the U.S. faster once she became a citizen.
  • You have better job and educational opportunities.
  • You can visit loved ones in your home country without worrying about returning by a certain date.
  • You have a say in who represents you and the laws of this country because you will have the right to VOTE!

The advantage of easier international traveling is definitely a big plus in our family. Traveling is one of our favorite things to do and Rob and I have traveled a few times internationally – for our honeymoon, cruises, and even going back to visit his hometown in the Philippines.

While we’ve been married, we’ve never encountered these issues because Rob became a naturalized U.S. citizen when he was 19 years old. I’m thankful to his parents for making the sacrifice of coming to this country and working to become citizens.

There are great programs available to help people who are here in the U.S. understand and start the process. And if you are eligible to become a U.S. citizen, you should start that process now.iAmerica has free online tools to help folks see if they are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship and start their application online. They have set a goal to see 2 million people apply for U.S. citizenship by the end of 2022!

I know personally how important and empowering it feels to become a naturalized U.S. citizen and the benefits that come along with that step and definitely encourage everyone to take it!