East Village Candy Store Owner Becomes US Citizen After 50 years

The owner of Ray’s Candy Store in New York City has finally become a US citizen after living in this nation for 50 years, according to the Villager.

Born Asghar Ghahraman, the Iranian born entrepreneur reinvented himself as Ray Alvarez after abandoning his post with the Iranian Navy to stay in the US. While the newspaper reports Alvarez received amnesty under President Ronald Reagan, his green card was reportedly mailed to the wrong address, leaving him stuck in a state of legal uncertainty.

After years of determining how he could qualify for naturalization Alvarez, now 78, finally qualified with the help of friends who helped him sift through mountains of paperwork. Alvarez gained US citizenship in a naturalization ceremony featuring 173 people from 50 different countries.

“I’m American. No more Turkish. No more Puerto Rican – I was Puerto Rican for 50 years, I had to learn Spanish,” said Alvarez, describing how he adopted a Puerto Rican identity when he moved to the US.

Alvarez told the media outlet that he plans on getting his US passport as soon as possible so he can finally travel outside of the US.

More foreign-born US residents are choosing to become naturalized US citizens. The Pew Hispanic Center reports that 59 percent of legal immigrants eligible for naturalization became citizens in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available, an 11 percent increase from a decade earlier.