By BRAD KELLAR
Meet Nargiza Nash, a freshly minted citizen of the United States of America.
But it wasn’t an easy journey.
“It was a hard, hard way,” Nash said, and it took her a while to reach her goal.
Nash, a native of Uzbekistan in Central Asia, came to the United States to be with the man she loves.
“I came here on a fiancee visa,” Nash said. “On Aug. 16, I will have been here for four years.”
She and her future husband Eric, who now live in Commerce, met in Afghanistan in 2004. Eric was working for KBR, an engineering firm; while Nargiza, who was working in retail in Dubai, was on a girls’ night out with friends and the two happened across each other in a hotel lobby.
“In two weeks, he offered me marriage,” Nash said. “It was very fast.”
They didn’t get married right away.
“We had an engagement ceremony, by my traditions,” Nash said.
Eric returned to the United States and Nargiza joined him in 2009.
“I arrived on Oct. 16 and on Oct. 22 we were married,” Nash said.
At the time, they lived in Honey Grove in Fannin County.
“We didn’t have any money, because we were both students,” Nash said.
They chose to be wed by a justice of the peace in Bonham.
“He had a very harsh Texas accent,” Nash said, noting it resulted in some confusion when it came to taking the vows, especially the part where he asked Nargiza if she would take Eric “to have and to hold.”
“I said, ‘To have and to hell’ because this is what I heard,” she recalled.
Nash said actually obtaining her citizenship was a struggle.
“It was a very long, long way to come here,” she said.
Nargiza said Eric found a lawyer online, who said he wanted to help.
“He took our money and never appeared,” Nash explained.
In 2007, the couple tried again through a legal firm in Houston.
“It didn’t go smooth,” Nash said. “Those lawyers worked extremely slow.”
Nash said she and Eric struggled with the attorneys each step of the way.
“We were pushing the lawyers to get all the documents,” Nash explained. “They took a ridiculous amount of money.”
Nash said they had spent approximately $6,000 in attempting to obtain her “green card”, before the law firm dropped them as clients.
She said they eventually discovered another lawyer in Houston, who explained that they could do much of the process of obtaining a green card on their own.
“He was so honest,” Nash said. “We were really impressed by his honesty.”
Nash obtained her green card in June 2010, then had to reapply in two years. She obtained her second green card in January 2013.
After that, she said, there was a 90-day waiting period before she could formally apply for citizenship.
“I applied in March,” Nash said. “On June 13, I had my initial interview with the U.S. Immigrations officer.”
Following that came a test on United States history and government.
“If you answer six questions out of the 10, you pass,” Nash said. “I didn’t have any problem.”
She was told there were often 45 days between the examination and the swearing-in ceremony.
“But it took much less,” Nash said. “At a ceremony on July 11, I gave my Oath of Allegiance.”
Needless to say, after all that, Nash is excited to be a citizen. The couple have a daughter, who is also a United States citizen.
“The United States is the best place for our daughter to grow up, and for our future,” Nash said. “There are more opportunities here and more freedom.”
Of course, there was some culture shock to adjust to. Nash said while in Dubai, she learned how to provide excellent customer service.
“Unfortunately, this is not what I see here, especially in the retail businesses,” Nash said.
And it took a while for people to adjust to Nash.
“You can still hear my accent,” she said. People often confuse it with a Mexican accent. “They talk to me in Spanish.”
Nash currently is employed at Jan’s Hallmark in Greenville, noting Jan Weddle and her fellow employees have been very supportive of her efforts to become a citizen.
“They are really nice people,” Nash said, adding Eric continues his studies at Texas A&M University-Commerce.
“I just graduated with my second bachelor’s degree, in criminal justice, and I am planning to get my master’s degree in applied criminology,” she said. “I really want to work one day in immigration services.”
Nash believes her experiences dealing with the system, as well as the fact she speaks Russian, English, a little Arabic and her native Uzbek, would prove invaluable in helping others coming to the United States.
“I think I’d be an excellent employee,” Nash said. “This would be my ultimate goal.”
However, she wouldn’t rule out serving at an embassy somewhere overseas, but all that is in the future.
“I feel a responsibility right now as a United States citizen, to the world and to pay my taxes and to find a job to pay off my student loans,” Nash said. “This is one of my goals.”
Looking back on the past few years, Nash realizes she is right where she wants to be, as a citizen of the United States, where she lives with the family she loves.
“Yes, it can be hard, but we stood for it and I got it,” she said.