Jeana became a U.S. citizen later in life after being adopted by U.S. parents as an infant.
My Journey to Citizenship As An Adoptee
people found Jeana's experience helpful.
I was fifteen years old and looking to make some money to buy my own things and gain independence. I went through the interview at a local restaurant that was hiring; everything went great. The supervisor says, "Ok, I just need to make a copy of your social security card." No big deal...I hand it to him. BIG PAUSE. "Um... what does it mean, 'not valid without proper documentation?'" I give him a blank stare (as a teenager, I was exceptionally gifted at talking with my eyes).
"I'm sorry, we can't accept this,” he says, a phrase that became as prolific in my life as a sad refrain and stalked me all the way to college. This is the point where I realized that I was never going to get anywhere without U.S. citizenship.
The most frustrating part of the whole process was the time it took. I started in high school and wasn't finished until college. The good news was that the Child Citizen Act of 2000 made becoming a citizen much easier for those who had been adopted, which I had been. The bad news: because I hadn't become a citizen right away when the adoption was finalized, things were a little more complicated and, as previously stated, I had trouble obtaining work.
When I was adopted, my name was Sandra G. I never went by this name, and little did I know that, legally, it was my name still. So first things first, I had to legally change my name. This was accomplished through a petition at the local courthouse. The name was then listed in the newspaper to make sure no one else had that name. I also had to prove the Sandra G. who was born in Colombia was also Jeana, who grew up in Wisconsin. This is where the social security card helped, as it was the card assigned to me when entering the country. My passport was the one issued from Colombia when I was just a toddler.
The entire process was a huge waiting game after every step. Step one was finding the order from Clinton that stated all adoptees were automatically citizens. Second step, changing my name. Third, filing documents (originals only!), taking pictures, and then waiting for naturalization papers to come in. Finally, applying for a new social security card and a U.S. passport proving citizenship.
Given the opportunity to do it all again, I would try and have all my documents in order, take care of things sooner, and, surprisingly, keep the Colombian name, even as an add-on to my current name.
If you were adopted, it is important that you begin the process of obtaining citizenship as soon as possible to avoid problems with school, scholarships, jobs, and even deportation. It is just a matter of being patient and getting as much paperwork as you have in order: your social security card and number, a birth certificate (this can be complicated if you are from an orphanage, but they should have issued you something stating the country you were born in and assigning you a birthdate), any type of identification, and proof of adoption by U.S. citizens (only one parent has to be a citizen). If you were not adopted, and you are trying to get your naturalization papers, the process is a lot more complicated and can take around seven years, but don't lose hope. There are many volunteer organizations out there with the sole purpose of helping immigrants obtain their naturalization documents.