One-stop shop
Maj. Gen. James Milano congratulates Erika McKinnie during a naturalization ceremony at the grand opening of the new on-post U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services center. The new location provides citizenship service to all service members and family members in the Fort Jackson area.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has a new home on Fort Jackson dedicated to helping service members and their family members become U.S. citizens.

The opening was celebrated with a Naturalization Ceremony and Open House Wednesday at its office at 4204 Sumter Ave.

The new building will house all services needed for citizenship in one location.

“The old program took up to six months for completion,” said Jerry Adair, CIS field office director. “Soldiers had to mail applications to Nebraska, find somewhere to get photos taken, go to Charleston for fingerprints, wait for all paperwork to be processed, and then back to Charleston for interviews and ceremonies. Now we do all of that here.”

Erika McKinnie, a retiree spouse, was naturalized in the ceremony Wednesday and said the new center made obtaining citizenship a simple process.

“The process was easy because I did everything right there on post,” McKinnie said. “I’ve heard of people who went to Charleston and all over the place and still didn’t know when it would all get done. If I ever had questions, I just called the ladies on post and they helped me.”

The German-born McKinnie, who became a citizen after more than two decades living in the U.S., said it was always something she wanted to do.

Soldiers graduating Basic Combat Training with the 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment were also sworn in that day during the battalion’s Family Day festivities.

CIS personnel are available at the center each weekday to help service members and family members with their citizenship process on a walk-in basis.

This center staff also helps CIS with properly serving the Soldiers during their time in basic training. “Within the second week of training, we identify those who need to become citizens and get them started,” Adair said. “We have turned a once six-month process into six weeks.

Now we don’t have to track them down at their next duty station and they don’t have to worry about their citizenship.”

Once the citizenship process is complete, ceremonies will be conducted at the center or as part of Family Day activities. McKinnie said that working with the CIS staff has helped her achieve a life goal.

“My ceremony was very touching. This is a great, new step in my life,” McKinnie said. “I would tell anyone who needs help with becoming a citizen to just go to the center. They will definitely take care of you.”

Page last updated Thu July 7th, 2011 at 08:02