It's a day Vasti Morris has been anticipating for over two decades.
“This is the citizenship packet from immigration, so I became a citizen today,” she exclaims.
Morris has been working towards getting her citizenship since she came to America 21 years ago as a refugee from West Africa.
“Liberia, we had civil war for a very, very long time, and just somewhere where you didn't have to worry about if there's going to be a war or am I going to eat today,” she says. “So, it was a dream and that dream came true.”
But going from refugee to student to U.S. citizen was a difficult journey.
Immigration attorney Chirag Patel of Baltimore says the requirements for immigrants are changing almost daily, making the process longer and harder.
“There are a lot of restrictions coming into play this fiscal year,” says Patel.
After completing the N-400, the application for naturalization, and submitting it to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the government then takes a deep dive into your history through a long list of questions. Those questions include topics like criminal history, polygamy and deportation.
“They really do scrutinize everything,” Patel says.
After finally finishing the 20-page application, the screening process begins, and so does the waiting game. This application eventually ends up at a field office, where the applicant waits for an interview and a test.
“It could take about a year before you get an interview,” Patel explains.
In fact, a year is best case scenario, Patel says. And if you make a mistake on your application, you may have to start over.
“We have to make sure we know everything to be able to get through this process properly,” he says.
As for that test, Patel says, “You have to study for the civics exam and make sure you know all of the U.S. history and the political questions.”
Even if an applicant makes it to the test portion, they could continue to wait up to four months to be approved.
“A lot of people don't understand how difficult it is,” Morris says.
Morris, who is a nurse studying for her PhD, can now add “American citizen" to her resume, which means she can vote.
“I’m so excited,” she says gleefully. “November 6, I'm going to vote.”
It’s a day Morris says she’ll never forget, as she reflects on the struggles it took to finally get her citizenship.
“I didn't know I was going to be emotional,” she says. “It’s just knowing that this moment is finally here.”
It was a drudging path to a dream--one she says was worth every second.