New Citizen Says Naturalization Process Daunting, But Worth The Wait

For the millions who want to become citizens, it takes a lot more than overcoming language barriers and social stigmas. There are long waits and lots of documentation, and those who know the process say it is intimidating.

Carlos Fabian came from El Salvador when he was very young.

"My parents always told me since I was young, 'Get your citizenship.' That's the most important thing," he says.

This physical therapist-in-training went through the process, requiring form after form, testing, patience, and some money.

"It takes you up to half-a-year to two years to get an answer, I think. And then they've got to send you a date to appear in court, and that takes another year and a half or so," he says.

That's fast compared to many.

"They must wait [approximately] eight years, for example, if they come from Mexico, and then once they have their legal permanent resident status, they must wait for at least five years [to become a citizen]," says immigration attorney Natalie Fletcher.

Fletcher says many who come to the U.S. illegally have no idea how complicated the system is -- to become a resident, much less a citizen.

"I think [immigrants] just know that they need to get up [to the United States], and then they'll find out what they can," she says.

Many don't know English, the only language the Immigration Service uses.

"They'll still ask you the questions in English, and you've got to give it your best shot," says Carlos.

He says that's what so many are doing, taking a chance for a better life.

Fletcher says they'll keep running toward that goal, no matter what roadblocks Congress puts up.

"I think if they need to earn the money up here to keep their family alive, I think they're going to do it," Fletcher says.

Carlos and his brothers say any amount of testing and waiting is worth it, all to get their shot at the dream.

"Me and my older two brothers, we did it together," he says.

The test given to prospective citizens includes American history and fundamentals of democracy and government. The test is online, with a chance to quiz yourself.

Click the link at the top of the page.

The cost of becoming a citizen is often in the hundreds of dollars, but can run into the thousands if complications arise in the application process.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.