I wanna vote!
August 20, 2008 10:14 AM   Subscribe

I passed my U.S. citizenship test last month (woo!). But I still haven't received notice of when my swearing-in ceremony will be, and D.C.'s voter registration deadline is coming up (Oct. 4). Can I somehow officially get my citizenship without waiting for the official swearing-in ceremony? I really don't want to miss out on being able to vote just because of this stupid delay.

I passed my test 7/10 and was told that my swearing-in would take place the first week of August or September. But here we are, a week and a half away from September, and I have heard nothing from the DHS.

Anyone else have experience with getting their papers without the pomp and circumstance?
posted by hazelshade to Law & Government (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Call your local House Representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and explain your situation to her (or, more likely, to her staffer). A bit of a push from an elected official tends to help matters like these.
posted by Citrus at 1:04 PM on August 20, 2008

Hazelshade: I passed my citizenship and was told I would receive notice of my swearing-in ceremony in about a month. It took roughly two years. This despite the fact many "important" people attempted to intervene on my behalf.

There is also a remedy by which if you request information about your status, the INS is legally obliged to provide an update within thirty days of the request. I filed the paperwork for updates I don't know how many times - ten or twelve, at least. And not one time did I receive an update.

I missed an election, which would have been my first anywhere, and while I know some people take it for granted, I'd really studied all the candidates and issues and was looking forward to making my small voice heard.

Later, I was directly told by a fairly sympathetic agent that, basically, anyone who was "Muslim," was having their swearing-in dates delayed for as long a time as possible (illegal, and my background check had come back clear), and that the INS was deliberately ignoring status-update requests. Of course, I already knew that last part. I am not conspiratorially-minded, but I have no problem believing that the same mindset which allowed Department of Justice hirings on the basis of political belief (which is illegal, mind you) allowed the INS to plainly ignore both the law and their ethical duty.

You can imagine how crazy I'm driven when I read politicians talking about how immigrants need to abide by the law, when our own Immigration & Naturalization Service refuses to do so. And bear in mind that by the time I'd applied for citizenship, I'd earned a college degree from a great school, been gainfully-employed at a higher-than median income, owned a home and worked as an intern for both a US Senator and for a non-profit organization which monitored foreign elections for fairness. How American should one be to receive one's due?

So, as your question has allowed me to rant about something I'm still upset thinking about, allow me to answer your question: No, it doesn't seem possible to become a citizen without the swearing-in ceremony; the two are inextricably bound. The swearing-in is (apparently) the thing that makes you a citizen, as symbolic as it is.

There have recently been articles about the fact that many people near citizenship will miss the elections because of mysterious and unexpected delays in processing paperwork - something that was supposed to have been fixed years ago. In my experience, and from what I've been told is the norm, people receive notice of their swearing-in date about a month prior to the date. In other words, if you got notice today, it would be in the second half of September. In many locales, one must register to vote 30 to 45 days before an election . . . so if this timeline is correct, you are *this* close to missing the election already.

I wish I had better news for you; I would definitely get on the phone to any local politician who's up for re-election, voice your support for him and her, and ask for theirs . . . and do it today. I don't know if it will help, but it's better than nothing.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:27 PM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Homeland Security works in mysterious ways and are well versed in the black arts of bureaucracy. What seems logical and in your best interest is not always the way it will be. The best way to possibly expedite the process is to make an informational appointment ASAP with DHS and ask when the naturalization is scheduled and if you can schedule it earlier. Unfortunately you can't ask this information over the phone and have to do it in person.

AFAIK, you have to do the swearing in ceremony to make you a citizen. There really is no way around that.
posted by JJ86 at 8:19 PM on August 20, 2008

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