The process of gaining American citizenship can be a complex and lengthy one, taking several years to fulfill the requirements and wait for a visa to become available. Few people know this fact better than Chengyi Pan, a Chinese immigrant woman who has obtained citizenship at the ripe age of 97.
According to NBC Minneapolis affiliate KARE, Pan came to the country in 2009, emigrating from China after her husband died. She moved to be closer to her kids, settling in Winona, Minnesota, where her daughter, Ting Ni, worked as a St. Mary’s University history professor before retirement. Pan herself is a retired principal and physicist, though she now resides at the Sauer Health Care nursing home.
While many elderly immigrants choose not to go through the hassle of applying for a green card and remain undocumented through the end of their lives, Pan made it her goal to obtain U.S. citizenship. As her daughter expressed to KARE, it’s not a surprise that she was so dedicated to becoming a legal resident of the U.S.
“She believes Americans are best people in the world,” said Ni.
The right to vote
After taking her oath of citizenship in fall, Pan obtained her green card just in time to vote during the 2014 midterm elections. This was Pan’s first time voting in her lifetime, Ni told the source.
“Probably you know in China the citizens don’t have the right to vote and so the most significant thing is that she votes at the age of 97 first time,” Ni explained.
In the retirement home, Pan took a trip down the hall to the in-house polling place. There, she registered to vote with the help of an election judge. When she filled out her ballot, she used a magnifying glass to examine it, as her eyesight is deteriorating. After casting her ballot, Pan was met with cheers and hugs and proudly wore her “I voted” sticker on her shirt.
As her daughter explained, it was truly an American dream come true.
“She said she’s excited and now that she’s American she will be informed about American affairs and also about world affairs,” Ni said. “And she can look at things from now on from an American perspective.”