Twenty-two foreign-born Maine residents completed the long journey of becoming U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony Sept. 12 at Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park. Two Waldo County residents took the leap that day in front of 40 friends and family: Lyndsey Lewis of Belfast and Concepta Jones of Swanville.

New Zealander

According to Lewis, there were "about 15 or 16 different countries represented that day."

She recalled there were two Australians and two from Thailand, as well as a woman from South Korea who had been in the U.S. 11 years, and a woman from Northern Ireland who had been a resident for 50 years, among others.

"Why now?" Lewis said she asked the woman from Northern Ireland. "She said so she could vote. That's what kicked me in the butt. I wanted to vote as well," Lewis said.

Lewis has been a legal U.S. resident for the past 34 years. "Back then they issued you a permanent green card," she said. "I never had to renew it. Newer immigration officials don't know what to make of this card."

The ceremony culminated three years' work filling out the application online, "a little bit by little bit," she said. She submitted the completed paperwork late last year and was given an appointment in June for a final interview.

At that meeting, Lewis said, an exam was given and all her previous paperwork was meticulously checked. "He made sure all the T's were crossed and all the I's were dotted," she said. "It was a bit slow and painful.

"He ask a little bit about my life, to make sure you match up with what you say on paper. They did my fingerprints and took my photo to make sure everything was on the up and up."

In preparation for the test, Lewis was given a booklet of 100 possible questions. At the interview, she had to answer correctly six of 10 questions to pass the civics test.

After initially stumbling on a technicality when answering "What is one of our freedoms?" she completed her test with six correct answers.

Originally from New Zealand, by way of Australia, Lewis said for her it was a "rite of passage" to leave her home country when she was in her early 20s.

"Everybody leaves New Zealand," she said. "It's a little island at the bottom of the planet. I sold my car in New Zealand, and I had enough cash to get to Melbourne."

Lewis hitchhiked and explored Australia, at one point delivering mail on a bicycle for the post office in Melbourne, among other jobs. While working at a horse farm in Sydney, she "met a guy who was an American," and had ties to Maine.

Her motivation to go through the process after 34 years here was to be able to vote and obtain an American passport to facilitate traveling abroad. "I'm glad to have the process done," she said.

According to Lewis, some of the people who went through the naturalization process "are not coming from paradise" and don't want to go back. Lewis, however, will retain her New Zealand passport.

"It's not a big deal for me, because I have New Zealand," she said, "and it's kind of a nice place, too."

When asked about Belfast, Lewis said this is "as nice as it gets."

South African

Concepta Jones, a boutique owner, speaker, vocalist and a certified life coach, was born in Cape Town, South Africa.

"I started traveling out of South Africa when I was 18," Jones said. "I was traveling all over the place with my music."

She recalls working six nights a week singing with a professional band, traveling to and from such countries as Dubai, Bahrain and Egypt, before coming to New York in 2001 at the age of 25.

Through her music, she met her first husband who was from that area. They were married for seven years and had two sons before their marriage ended in divorce.

According to Jones, it was an abusive, controlling relationship in which her husband threaten to alert Immigration and take her kids from her. She received her green card after eight years of living in New York.

"He stalled and didn't make it happen until much later on," Jones said. "My ex-husband was basically threatening me."

Then a single mom with two young boys, Jones worked in New York while the boys attended two separate schools. She said it was definitely hard, shuffling her sons around, working and trying to make ends meet.

She met her present husband, who had ties to Maine, online. They were married in 2011 and moved to the Belfast area the following year.

With her green card set to expire in 2019, Jones thought "this year would be the year" to become a citizen.

"I thought of my sons, them being U.S. citizens, and thought I'm not going to have any separation between us," she said. "Before I became a citizen, we could be separated, because they're citizens and I'm not. I'm not going to lose my sons over citizenship." 

When traveling internationally, Jones said would have to go into a separate line from her sons. "I didn't want us to be categorized differently," she said.

She currently holds dual citizenship. "I had to apply with my South African consulate to retain it before starting the U.S. citizen process," she said. 

The process was easier than she thought it would be. "I did a lot of research and did everything online," she said. "I went over the questions with my husband; he would quiz me. My younger son would ask me questions that weren't in the book."

Jones credits a New York organization, Sanctuary Families, for guiding her when her marriage was ending. "They only take cases they feel are valid and need their help," she said. "They definitely took on my case after hearing the story about how my ex-husband was holding my green card over my head.

"When you are in it, you don't even see it as abuse," she said. "They were such a Godsend. I don't think I could have fought him legally. That was one of the biggest reasons I was able to get out of it."

Currently, Jones is going through a business transition from a physical storefront on Route 1 in East Belfast to promoting her boutique,, online. She is fine-tuning how the boutique will look and finding items that represent her diverse background.

"The biggest part of this experience is going through the process and winning, instead of being a victim," Jones said.