The journey to becoming a citizen is not always an easy one for immigrants in the United States, but their continuous perseverance against all obstacles is admirable. When she was 14 years old, Pavni’s parents moved to Indonesia while she stayed back in her home country of India to attend boarding school. She would go on to attend university in Australia and eventually reunite with her family years later in Indonesia. Unsure of what her next step should be an uncle convinced Pavni to explore employment opportunities in the United States. Pavni took his advice and was sponsored for an H-1B work visa, arriving in the United States in 2000.
While working in Maryland, Pavni realized she had two options: live out the 6 years here on her visa and then return to India or pursue US permanent residence. She tells us of her decision, “Back then, it seemed like starting the PERM process was the easier option. I hadn’t been to India in a long time—hadn’t experienced living there as an adult—so I knew adapting would be a challenge. That’s why I eventually decided on permanent residence, though it did not turn out to be as simple as I had initially imagined.” She applied for her green card back in 2003 and due to the lengthy waiting period in her employment-related category as an Indian national, the entire process took Pavni 15 years, since her initial entry to the United States.
Fortunately, Pavni’s path to naturalization was much smoother, though not entirely free of setbacks. Pavni initially hesitated from pursuing citizenship due to concerns regarding cost, paperwork and time commitment. After learning of and being found eligible for the DC Mayor’s Citizenship Fund—which covers the entire cost of the application for DC residents—she was motivated to apply.
Pavni was scheduled to attend her oath ceremony back in March 2020. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, her appointment was pushed back into the summer. After a long and complicated journey, Pavni finally became a citizen of the United States in July 2020.
Though Pavni was able to attend her in-person naturalization oath ceremony, without issue, due to good health and a secure job, Pavni recognizes this isn’t the case for many others. She emphasizes the need for an alternative during times of national crisis, “Offering an online option for these events is a must at this point. Not only does it enable individuals who are immunocompromised and cannot risk leaving their homes in the middle of this pandemic, but it accommodates the disabled and those who do not have the luxury of taking time off work in the middle of the day. It’s a necessary step and should continue even after all of this is over.”
As for what Pavni plans to do now as a US Citizen, she says, “Vote. Definitely vote.” With 20 years’ experience in the public health sector, senior level positions within the US government are now open to her—something Pavni is definitely keeping on her radar. Pavni is grateful for the New American Workforce and their accommodation, frequent communication and help every step of the way.