A look into the long road of US citizenship/ Marriage / GREEN CARD / Passport
A Brazil native can now call herself a U.S. citizen.
Beatriz White is a teacher at Niota Elementary. She began her quest for citizenship almost 10 years ago.
White, who teaches English as a second language, was born and raised in San Paolo, Brazil. She moved to the United States after meeting the love of her life on a mission trip in her home town in 2005.
"I was actually in Brazil at the time in San Paolo, and the person who was translating for us was getting a bit tired and she just happened to be there. And she ended up translating for me that night," said John White, Beatriz's husband.
They stayed connected and grew closer despite living on different continents. In 2006, John and Beatriz got married.
"In May in the US and in July in Brazil," said John.
Beatriz then began walking the path to become a United States citizen.
"A lot of people think that if you get married to a citizen, then you are automatically a US citizen, and that's not the case," said Beatriz. "At first for us I think I was just so excited about meeting John, and I didn't even think about the process of citizenship."
The fight for a green card took almost three years. Beatriz called it invasive and said it made her question at times if it was worth it.
"They don't trust you. They are always wanting to know every little part of your life, and they want to make sure you are being truthful. You have to prove yourself every step of the way," said Beatriz.
She also felt homesick on occasion.
"It's difficult to be apart from my mom and my dad and my nieces and nephews," said Beatriz.
It wasn't until June 2015 that Beatriz was able to apply for full citizenship. It was a three-month process. As of September, she became an official U.S. citizen. She said it went quickly and smoothly, which she didn't expect.. Beatriz said that she was treated better once she became a resident.
"A lot of times we were lost and not sure where we stand. And we thought, how much more do we have?" said Beatriz.
As a citizen, more opportunities have opened up for her. She can now register to vote, she can travel anywhere with a new passport, and she became eligible for federal jobs. With her green card, she previously received a good amount of rights but said that full citizenship is worth getting to avoid renewal costs.
She just got her passport in the mail, which is the final piece of the citizenship puzzle for the White family.
White also said it is important to have someone who can support you during the process. It can also be a very expensive process. Throughout the decade, she kept steady jobs and went back to school.
Her newfound education helped her even more with her current job. She learned Spanish, which was similar to her native language of Portuguese. It broadened her horizons as an ESL teacher in East Tennessee.
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