John Oliver on “Petrifying” Process of Becoming a U.S. Citizen

One of the great levellers that brings different people together.

Even celebrities have to go through the standard process (when I was posted to LA, the consular staff regularly had to help the Canadian Hollywood crowd with their passport renewals):

John Oliver opened up about becoming a U.S. citizen when he stopped by CBS’ The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on Monday.

The Last Week Tonight host made a grand entrance and was carried onto the stage by four shirtless men dressed as Uncle Sam. “Yankee Doodle” played as Oliver shot a shirt out of a cannon. The theatrical entrance follows Jim Carrey’s appearance last week, in which Carrey parade onto the stage with a New Orleans-style second line band in tow and a purple umbrella in hand.

While talking to host Stephen Colbert, Oliver admitted that his journey to becoming a U.S. citizen has been a long time coming. “I came here in 2006, and so I’ve kind of been wanting this to happen pretty soon after that, so it’s been over a decade,” he said.

Oliver recapped the process, which included having to “go through a number of visas. I had to go through a green card, then I started applying for citizenship and now it takes longer because there’s sand in the gears of the system.” After his first green card expired, he had to apply for a second one.

Oliver said that the process was “unbelievably tense,” but added that he’s “incredible relieved” to now be a legal U.S. citizen.

He later explained the testing process, which includes “a hundred different questions and they kind of select 10 of them to fire at you.” Some examples of the questions Oliver could have been asked included naming state capitals and identifying the president.

“It’s incredibly nerve-wracking and the first question they asked me was, ‘What is your phone number?’ And I was so scared, I forgot,” he said. “She said, ‘Okay, let me just check your Social Security number,’ and I went, ‘I don’t know what that is, either. Oh, this isn’t going at all well.’ It was utterly petrifying.”

Oliver admitted to being “anxious” about becoming a citizen for over a decade. “Even the day of the ceremony, I kind of thought it was going to be a trap. There was part of me that literally thought they would open the door and there’d just be plastic sheeting on the ground like in Goodfellas and just Jared Kushner sitting in a swivel chair stroking a hairless cat,” he said. “That would’ve made more sense to me than the thing I wanted happening.”

When asked if he had to renounce the queen, Oliver responded, “I did that years ago, anyway.”

He then spoke about the “incredibly moving” experience of seeing other people become U.S. citizens during the ceremony. “It was 150 people from 49 different countries. All of us had been waiting a long time for this,” said Oliver. “There’s something very inspiring about the idea of these people choosing America — not just choosing America, but choosing America now when the country’s not at its best.

“Choosing America now is like falling in love with someone who’s vomiting all over themselves,” he continued. “‘I’m taking a flier. There’s a great human being under here.'”

The HBO host added, “It was very inspiring to watch people buy into the idea of America, which obviously outlasts any president. The idea is still sound.”

Oliver previously spoke about becoming a U.S. citizen in a recent Hollywood Reporter cover story. “The feeling you get at the end of that process is overwhelming relief,” he said during the interview. “And that it’s nothing to do with the current president.”

Source: John Oliver on “Petrifying” Process of Becoming a U.S. Citizen

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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