Attendees waved mini U.S. flags in the air during the ceremony. When it was over, employees and volunteers filled the room with congratulations. Family members eagerly awaited reconvening with their relatives who had just completed an important benchmark of their lives: They had officially been sworn in as U.S. citizens.
The 49 participants come from 29 countries. They met at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Atlanta office Wednesday morning to complete the process.
When asked how he felt, Jay Bhimani said, “Wonderful. It’s been quite a journey. It took about four or five years from the day that I arrived here, but I’m here, so I’m grateful.”
Bhimani, who moved here from India in 2013, has lived in Georgia for the last couple of years, but plans on moving back to Charlotte, where he originally settled.
Okezie Achigbu lives in Ellenwood, and also moved to the United States in 2013, from Nigeria.
“I’m feeling excited,” he said. “It was a long process.”
Those seeking naturalization must be permanent residents of the U.S. for at least five years, according to the USCIS website.
Wednesday’s ceremony was one of about 110 across the nation, which will swear in about 7,500 new citizens. This year, the events are being held from July 1-5 to commemorate Independence Day, the agency said in a press release.
U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath gave the keynote speech.
With their certificates in hand, the group of new citizens was ushered into another room to register to vote. Eight of them saw the familiar face of Preye Cobham.
Cobham is an attorney and board member of Women Watch Afrika, a women’s rights advocacy organization. She has many clients who are refugees and immigrants, and taught a class that familiarizes aspiring citizens with aspects of the naturalization process, such as important laws and the civics test that must be passed.
“It’s always exciting to see family and friends and see how emotional it is,” Cobham said. “They finally get to see the finish line.”