Woman granted citizenship 86 years late

Anne Zajac of Liverpool, New York, has lived in the U.S. since she came to the country with her parents from Poland in 1928. That was 86 years ago, when she was 3 years old. According to the Associated Press, Zajac, now age 90, thought she was a U.S. citizen for decades. However, what Zajac didn’t know is that a clerical error in 1935 meant that she had been living as an undocumented immigrant despite paying taxes, voting and receiving her Social Security card.

When her husband Henry Zajac died in October 2013, she went to file paperwork in order to receive her husband’s Social Security benefits. According to Syracuse.com, it was in November 2013, after attempting to file the paperwork, that she realized she was not a U.S. citizen. In order to be eligible to receive her husband’s Social Security benefits, Zajac had to prove she was a citizen, but she quickly learned there was no record of her citizenship.

Zajac’s son, Richard Zajac, called U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei’s office for help. Maffei’s office was able to help find Zajac’s parents’ citizenship application from 1935. According to the source, it was filed in Oswego County, New York.

After filing her application and supporting documents, Zajac was sworn in as a U.S. citizen. Immigration services officer Richard Bessette was the one who made Zajac’s citizenship official by swearing her in. However, instead of making her drive to the nearby office in Syracuse, he stopped by her home so she could take the oath of citizenship, the source reported.

To celebrate Zajac’s citizenship, a representative from Maffei’s office was there to give her an American flag that was flown over the U.S. capitol. She also received a certificate of citizenship. Zajac’s family was also  there, including her sister, children, grand children and great-grandchildren.