- - Thursday, March 2, 2017


Tsotne Bakuria’s story of his arduous path to U.S. citizenship is vivid proof of bureaucracy’s ability to make life difficult (“Changing channels in Georgia,” Web, Dec 29, 2015). I, too, am an immigrant, albeit one who arrived prior to Sept. 11, 2001.

I was a single woman, born and raised in Austria, and I had lived and worked years in South Africa and Burma (now Myanmar). I only had a baccalaureate, but I was fluent in three languages, including shorthand, and had business experience. In 1965 I worked for Pan Am at Vienna International Airport. I had no relatives, job offer or connections in the United States when I applied for immigration at the U.S. consulate. My category for eligibility was good health, good English, an impeccable background and $1,000 in cash. I completed long questionnaires, passed an English test and a physical, produced certificates of good conduct from all places of past residence and had a long interview with the consul. Austria had a quota and the wait was six months. When issued, my visa required another physical and arrival in the United States within 15 days.

The green card I obtained shortly after arrival was really green and I had a job within a week. One thousand dollars was a lot more money in 1965, but it really didn’t go very far if you had no credit and needed a car. I managed the latter with the help of my employer’s credit union and by living in the former tenant house of a farm near Manassas (without a bathroom or central heat). Life was tough, but I knew I would work my way up. Within months I had a better job, and after three years I became an independent contractor.

Several years later Immigration offered me citizenship. After passing tests about the Constitution and English I was given a date for the ceremony. It was a privilege to swear allegiance to this magnificent country and to become a citizen. I needed no lawyer and if there were fees they were so small I don’t remember the amount.

Yes, I had my ups and downs and life was very tough at times, but I never ceased blessing the day I arrived. Thank you, America.


Falls Church

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