Proud to be an American: The journey to gaining American citizenship

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Hard work, determination and credibility are values Julio Rivas, associate professor of finance at Lipscomb University said he has always treasured. After living in the United States for the past 11 years, Rivas can now officially call America home. Hard work, a lot of determination and six-and-a-half years’ time finally concluded Rivas’s journey to becoming an American citizen.

Rivas grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and lived in Mexico for the first 28 years of his life. It was the pursuit of his doctoral degree that first brought him to America to study at The University of Texas at Arlington.

Growing up in a large city, Rivas said life in Mexico was good, but when he came to America, he realized this is where he belongs.

“I have always been very oriented toward working hard and following the rules,” said Rivas. “I like societies that are organized and well-structured like this one. After I got my Ph.D. I thought this was a place in which I could function really well. Being an American means being a part of the society, a society I fit into really well.”

As he was finishing up his doctoral studies, Rivas began exploring for a job. He said he was open to going anywhere. However, with the help of one of his dissertation advisors, Rivas learned about an open position in Lipscomb’s College of Business.

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After visiting campus for an interview, Rivas was yet again fueled by determination. This time he was determined to work at an institution he believed aligned with his personal values.

“I really think God put things in order so that I could come to Lipscomb,” said Rivas. “A job is a job, but when you get to work at a place with people who have similar values and perspectives of the big picture as you do, it becomes a lot more than a job.”

Rivas was patient and deliberate through the lengthy process with several steps before him, but all of his waiting paid off when he became a citizen.

Rivas started with an F1 visa, a non-immigrant visa meant for students studying in the United States. Five years later, after he earned his Ph.D. he converted over to an H-1B visa designed for non-citizens working in a professional field.

In May of 2014, Rivas married Beth,  from West Tennessee, and then began the process of becoming a permanent resident.

“If you apply for your green card as a married individual, you get a temporary green card for two years to make sure your marriage is real,” said Rivas. “My wife and I had to drive to Memphis for my permanent green card interview. I was a little nervous because I imagined the interview would be like the one Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds had in 'The Proposal,'” a very interrogative process.

Rivas said the interview was nothing like the movies and two years later, he applied to remove the permanent resident condition and to officially become an American citizen.

On Dec. 7th Rivas attended his oath ceremony and the long road to becoming a citizen came to an end.

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Rivas said he doesn’t plan on moving back to Mexico, but he and his wife still enjoy traveling back to visit his family at least once a year.

“I don’t think universities in Mexico value education like they do in America,” said Rivas. “Here, in America and at Lipscomb, I feel respected and supported, and I don’t think a lot of faculty feel that way in Mexico.”

After discovering that living in America was his ideal home, Rivas then discovered that working at Lipscomb was the perfect job for him.

“Doing your job well is important, but the sense of community at Lipscomb is even more valuable,” said Rivas. “That sense of community helps us as faculty to develop deeper, which ultimately helps the students.”

“The journey to becoming an American was hard, and it took me a long time,” said Rivas. “My education prepared me for this journey. In spite of political and international issues, this is a great country. With the freedoms we have in America, opportunities and possibilities here are gigantic.”