Becoming a citizen of the United States is not always easy, but the end result is what motivates people all over the world to become an American.
Sixty-three eager people from 30 different countries raised their right hands Tuesday afternoon at Scotchtown for the ninth annual naturalization ceremony, pledging their allegiances to the United States of America and obtaining all the rights that U.S.-born citizens enjoy, such as voting.
One resident from the West End of Richmond was among those who jumped through the necessary hoops to obtain U.S. citizenship. After 11 years, Aftab Karim, originally from Pakistan, became a U.S. citizen.
“[It is] a dream come true,” Karim said.
One of Karim’s main motivations for living in America was to further his career as a physician.
“Being a physician, I wanted to work as a physician here and nothing else,” Karim said.
After he arrived in 2002, Karim returned to his homeland because he was denied a physician’s job. The next year, he re-applied for a position and got the job.
“The main reason was not to get the citizenship but to get the training in such a technologically advanced country,” Karim said.
He decided to go through each step of becoming a citizen without getting married to an American. Instead, Karim chose to get an education and go through training. Karim was able to obtain his VISA in 2004, his green card in 2007 and then become a permanent resident in 2008. Five years later, he can identify himself as a U.S citizen.
Karim now works at VCU’s medical center and lives with his wife, who he brought to the U.S. from their native county.
Deshire Farfan, a 20-year-old born in Peru, has lived in the U.S. since she was 15 and was one of the 60-plus who became a citizen Sept. 13 at Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown.
“I’m so happy and that’s all I can say,” Farfan said.
Similar to Karim, Farfan decided to make it official because she wanted to have access to the opportunities and benefits afforded U.S. citizens.
Another new citizen and native of The Bahamas, Jason Forbes, was ecstatic to become a citizen and drove from his home in Florida to attend the naturalization ceremony.
“I want to be able to vote,” Forbes said. “I want to be able to participate in all the benefits of being a United States citizen and apply to federal jobs.”
In 1981, Forbes traveled with his mother to America, but they didn’t get citizenship immediately.
His mother began her citizenship process in 1995, during Forbes’ senior year of high school, but he didn’t actually start his own process until May of this year.
Although Forbes has been in the U.S. since he was 5 years old and is familiar with the country, he felt blessed to become an official citizen.
“It’s definitely a blessing to have the opportunity to be a part of the greatest country ever,” Forbes said.