By Ray O’Hanlon
Mairead Shiel’s fingerprints stood between her and U.S. citizenship for the better part of two years.
But the Gort, Co. Galway, native can now dust off all her digital problems and settle down to being a new Irish American.
Nineteen months and four sets of fingerprints after she initially applied for naturalization, Shiel was sworn in as a citizen a few days ago in Brooklyn. And as far as she is concerned, the wait has been worth it.
“It was a great sensation, absolutely fantastic,” said Shiel, an Aer Lingus ground staff member who lives in Staten Island. “It was certainly a load off my shoulders.”
Not to mention her hands.
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Shiel and her husband, Michael, had applied for citizenship back in December 1996. Michael’s path to a blue passport was relatively easy and he was cleared in three months.
But Mairead fell foul of new, stricter fingerprinting regulations being enforced by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. There were problems getting a clear reading of her prints, possibly due to exposure of her hands to washing detergent or as a result of periodic bouts of the skin condition eczema.
Either way, what should have been a relatively simple process turned into a long, drawn-out ordeal. Al Capone had an easier time satisfying the system.
But that’s now all in Shiel’s past and she’s eager to get on with the American phase of her life.
“While waiting for the swearing-in ceremony, I spoke to others who had gone through fingerprint problems,” she said. “My advice to anyone who is frustrated by the long wait for citizenship right now is to be patient. Wait the system out, it’s definitely worth it.”