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Ten years ago, Silvia Encinas left her native Spain and came to the United States with her husband.
She has spent the past eight years teaching Spanish at Williamstown High School.
Now, Encinas and her husband are officially American citizens after taking the naturalization oath Oct. 18 at the John C. Watts Federal Building in Frankfort.
“We’ve traveled a lot around this country and we loved not only the places we saw but especially the people,” she said. “Americans are the most generous people I’ve met, and I see proof of that in our small community.”
Encinas’ citizenship journey began in 2003 when she applied for the Visiting Teachers from Spain program.
“We could choose almost any state in the U.S. or Canada, and we chose Kentucky randomly really,” she said.
Encinas initially was sent to teach at Powell County High School. When it was time for a visa change after three years, she applied at Williamstown High School.
The process to obtain citizenship usually takes an average of six months, depending on the state, said Encinas. However, the couple was able to complete the process in three months.
The first step was an interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, where Encinas had her passport picture and fingerprints taken. Once the FBI do a background check, a second interview is scheduled in which a test is administered on U.S. History, Civics and English.
“I wouldn’t say the test was difficult, but I couldn’t help getting a bit nervous before it started,” Encinas said.
During the first interview, Encinas and her husband were given a booklet with 100 potential questions.
“Some of the questions I was asked were: Can you tell at least one reason why the colonists came to the U.S. and can you name a state representative in Washington?” Encinas said.
The newfound citizens celebrated in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, one of the couple’s favorite places to go.
“We rented a cabin near Gatlinburg and some friends brought balloons and other decorations with the American flag on them and a cake,” Encinas said. “They made it really special.”