Anya's long road to citizenship

Note: The name has been changed, but the facts have not.

Anya was born in Russia and raised there until she was about 10 years old. Her parents brought her with them on a tourist visa to the United States and never returned to Russia. 

It only took Anya 23 years, 9 months, and 21 days to obtain her U.S. citizenship. 

After high school in Illinois, Anya followed her sweetheart to Florida to attend college. They eventually got married in Florida and, months later, filed immigration petitions to obtain Anya’s permanent resident status. In June 2008, she became a conditional permanent resident based on her marriage to a U.S. citizen. She was scheduled for a follow-up interview two years later. 

Unfortunately, their life did not work out in Florida so they returned to Illinois. Anya’s husband became involved with old friends who were a bad influence. While she enrolled in the University of Illinois to complete her political science degree, he disappeared into addiction. 

In 2011, Anya attended her immigration follow-up interview to remove the conditions on her permanent resident status. Her husband was in jail on drug charges. Anya attended the hearing by herself, without an attorney. She tried to explain why her husband was missing, but her status was terminated and she was placed in deportation proceedings in Chicago. 

The next few years were saddled with high emotions, lots of stress and a toxic marriage. In September 2013, her divorce was finalized. 

Because she had been brought to the U.S. as a child, Anya was able to apply for DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. She received protection from deportation and a two-year employment authorization.

She remarried in 2016. Her second husband is a Doctor of Philosophy at Oregon Health and Science University.

Anya was on her second two-year work permit when she came to LCSNW’s Safe Route Immigration program in June 2017. She was in removal proceedings in Portland, still protected on a limited basis under DACA. Her Safe Route attorney went over her options, including returning to Chicago or staying in Portland. She could file new immigration petitions through her new US citizen husband, or continue to fight for her original permanent residency, or continue with DACA indefinitely. She decided to stay in Portland and continue fighting for her original permanent residency – the most difficult legal option.

After three years of hearings, meetings and painful waiting, Anya’s I-751 immigration petition was approved. On July 21, 2021, a Portland judge dismissed Anya’s deportation case. And because the petition based on her first marriage was approved, she reclaimed the original June 2008 date of her permanent residency. That meant she could immediately file for U.S. citizenship. With Safe Route’s help, she did so. 

On Sept. 22, 2022, Anya was sworn in as a U.S. citizen with hundreds of other immigrants at the Oregon Convention Center. She holds a Master’s in Public Policy and works for a non-profit in Portland as a community organizer. She is doing exactly what she dreamed of doing, giving people tools to exercise their power.