Expat Life

To Pledge or Not to Pledge: the Question of US Citizenship

To Pledge or Not to Pledge: the Question of US Citizenship

This month marks quite a milestone for me. It’ll be 10 years since I moved from England to America. A whole decade! I can hardly believe it.

I can say without doubt that I’m definitely not the same woman that boarded that plane with a single suitcase and no real plan for the path my life might take. There are many events in life that shape us – getting married and having children are two that come to mind! And of course, the march of time alone changes us in many ways.

But, for me personally, the experience of moving abroad has also had an immeasurable influence on the person I am today.

Naturally, at a time such as this, thoughts turn to the future and what the next decade might hold in store for me.

Currently I’m a permanent resident of the US (aka a green card holder). The next step for many people is to apply for full citizenship, and this is something I’m mulling over, since I would be eligible at this stage.

In many ways it feels as though my head and my heart are at odds with one another. My head is telling me that pursuing US citizenship is the next logical move. But my heart has reservations.

In favor of US citizenship

There are of course many good reasons for me to take the next step and make it official. Right now, I’m the odd one out in my family. My husband and children are all US citizens. And unless something unexpected happens, America is most likely where we’ll spend the rest of our lives.

Even though my status as a permanent resident affords me almost all of the freedoms and privileges that American citizens enjoy, there’s one blaring exception. I’m not eligible to vote. This is big deal for me. I’m an active member of society here. I pay my taxes and contribute to the economy, but have no voice. It was difficult to watch the results of the 2016 election come in, knowing that I was unable make even the tiniest bit of difference.

In many ways, US citizenship would feel like a great honor. There are many people who come to this country, full of hope, and dream of becoming American citizens. This is the kind of place that inspires creativity, fosters entrepreneurship and rewards tenacity. Anything’s possible here.

Finally, citizenship would offer the kind of stability that I think we all crave. It’s little unsettling to know in the back of my mind (regardless of how remote the possibility) that I could one day be asked to leave the country I now call home.

On the flip side

Despite these very good reasons, at this point in my life, I’m reticent to take the plunge.

Firstly, I think that I’m probably still too British! I don’t FEEL very American. As much as I enjoy life in this country and all of the wonderful things it has to offer, I often like like a bit of a misfit. Even after all of this time, I’m still learning the culture. And sometimes I still struggle to understand it, even with my wonderful American husband to guide me!

Last year I wrote about my experience of moving from country to another, and it’s very much an ongoing process for me. I’m still transitioning really. Who knows when (if ever) I’ll feel that the process is complete.

Another reservation I have about US citizenship is that I just can’t bring myself to renounce my country. Yes, that IS something I’d have to do if I decided to pursue a path to natuarilzation.

In case you’re not familiar with the oath of allegiance, this is how it goes (taken from the USCIS website):

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

While it’s highly unlikely that this would make a modicum of difference to my day to day life, the idea of it just makes me a little uneasy right now. I’m probably more patriotic than I realized.

My husband and I were chatting about all this the other day, and his comments to me were a bit surprising. I’d always assumed that he would be keen on me becoming a US citizen.  After all this is our home, and his birthplace – surely he’d want me to integrate more fully?

However, he told me that he likes the fact that I’m still a British citizen. He loves the idea that our daughters will grow up to be global citizens (they can hold US and British passports).  He made a great point. Our differing nationalities represent a great opportunity for our kids. I think that he secretly likes the novelty of being married to a foreigner too!

So for the time being, my own personal Brexit is off the agenda. But who knows – maybe one day in the future I’ll feel ready to take the oath and make things permanent.

That is of course, if America will even have me 😉

Are you an expat living in the US (or elsewhere)? Have you taken the oath of allegiance? Or are you holding off on going for US citizenship like me? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

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  • Reply Tracey Gemmell

    I’ve been here almost thirty years and still can’t bring myself to get citizenship. My head and heart argue with all the reasons you’ve listed above. But I intend to go home to England in the near future. I just can’t shake my British roots! Good luck to you in your decision making. It’s not easy.

    February 5, 2018 at 4:49 pm
    • Reply Polly

      Thanks Tracey! It’s not an easy decision to make, regardless of all the logical reasons. I love living in the US, but also miss England (and my family there) dearly. Enjoy your return home!

      February 6, 2018 at 7:23 pm
  • Reply Emmy

    You can still possess dual citizenship I believe, as can your children,

    January 6, 2019 at 1:36 pm
  • Reply Amy

    My husband’s sister naturalised and I experienced all the same feelings as you when I heard the oath. I’m british and we just moved to Los Angeles from Hong Kong. I think we will settle here, but I don’t know how I feel about naturalising.

    May 12, 2019 at 8:42 pm
    • Reply Polly

      I’m so glad that the post resonated Amy… it’s not always an easy decision. I still haven’t made my mind up!

      May 18, 2019 at 2:12 pm

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