JenSop: The Singing Traveler!

Idealist. Dreamer. Singer. Explorer.

How I became a dual citizen…

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Many of my regular readers will know that I started the process to dual citizenship during my time in Europe over a year ago.  (I mention it in some detail in THIS POST from last year.)  Those who are my Facebook friends know that it finally became official last week!

 

Yup – that’s right – I am now one of the lucky few who have citizenship in two countries.  For me, it’s the USA and Hungary.

 

First off, what does this mean?  Simply put, Hungary is in the EU (European Union), so as a Hungarian citizen, I now have the ability to stay in Europe without the three month time limit Americans normally have.  (That accursed time limit that repeatedly forced Miloš and I to have to spend three months apart each time I had to return to the States.)

Now I have no time limits.   I can legally live and work in any EU member country.  I can come and go as I please.  The US does not acknowledge the dual citizenship, but at the same time, they don’t forbid it.  Back home in the States, I’m just a normal US citizen.  I really just need my Hungarian citizenship in Europe, and Hungary allows for that dual citizenship.

 

So, what all was involved in the process?  LOTS.

 

First…

 

Heck, first I had to even find out about it.  This isn’t knowledge that’s advertised out there or anything.  I got the idea from a singer friend of mine when we were chatting on Facebook one evening early last year.  She said something about a friend of hers going through Hungary or Romania to get citizenship.  That’s when I had the lightbulb moment – MY grandparents had been born in Hungary!

I decided to send an email inquiry to the Hungarian embassy.

 

And so it began.

 

I had to put together all the documentation showing my family connection to Hungary.  For me, the connection was my paternal grandparents.  (My “Oma” and “Ota.”)  They were both born in Hungary.  (The town is now in modern-day Romania, but at the time of their birth it was Hungary.)  I had to provide my grandfather’s baptismal certificate, my father’s birth certificate, and my own birth certificate.  I also had to give them my grandparents’ wedding certificate.  (Since my parents were worried about mailing some of the originals overseas, we were able to use certified notarized copies.)  Ota’s baptismal certificate was already in Hungarian, but their marriage certificate and my dad’s birth certificate were in German.  (My dad was born in Austria.)  Then my birth certificate was obviously in English.  ALL documents not in Hungarian had to be officially translated into Hungarian by licensed translators here in Vienna.  That was a whole ordeal in itself, as I had to find one of the few translators that was certified for Hungarian from both English AND German.  (Most were not.)  The translations cost €200 (Euros) to have done.  (That’s over $275.00 when you convert it to American dollars.)

 

Also required was a lengthy application form.  In Hungarian.  I have a friend back in the Philly area whom I’ve sung with in a few operettas.  He is Hungarian.  His good friend’s cousin lives in Vienna, and we were put in touch.  So I had someone who could help me with the paperwork.  I also had to learn some Hungarian.  Yup.  The language requirements are wide ranging – something which was reinforced in my own internet research.  If someone is from one of the countries bordering Hungary, they expect you to speak fluent Hungarian.  But for applicants from North and South America, they are not as strict.  I read online accounts from other Americans who just had to show receipts from language schools showing their enrollment in Hungarian classes.  Or they had to demonstrate that they could speak it a bit – there is no test.  It’s an incredibly difficult language and they want you to show some type of dedication to learning it.

 

After submitting all paperwork, you then must wait for many months as everything has to go through Budapest.  My approval documents were signed in Budapest at the end of October 2013 (my application was submitted in April 2013.)  But then I had to wait to coordinate when and where I would take my oath.  It ultimately worked out for me to take part in the oath ceremony at the Hungarian embassy in Vienna.

 

There were about two dozen of us taking our oath last Tuesday.  I was up the night before watching Hungarian oath ceremonies on Youtube, so I’d have some kind of idea of what to expect.  (Plus, I was so nervous that I just couldn’t sleep.)  We had to register in the office at 9am, and sign our official documents before moving into the large ornate hall in the main section of the embassy.  We all spoke the oath out loud and together – repeating after the ambassador, line by line.  Each one of us was then called up to receive our certificates/documents individually, and after some words from the ambassador, we all sang the Hungarian National Anthem.  Since my primary contact at the embassy knew I was a singer, I was asked right before the start of the ceremony if I would come up to the front of the room and lead the entire group in the singing of the anthem when we reached that part of the program.  I was kind of petrified, but of course I said yes.  In the end, I thought it actually went pretty well.  (My roommate came along with me, and she recorded it so I could watch it later.)  Everyone seemed to really like it – I might be returning to do some more singing there in the future.  (Thank God for years and years of vocal training – making it possible to sing in almost any circumstance!)

 

After the ceremony, they had a short time set aside for a champagne toast and some mingling.   There seemed to be people from quite a number of places there that day.  (I heard more languages than only Hungarian and German.)  There was even a Canadian!  Immediately after that, I had my appointment back in the offices for my passport application.  Everything is done right there.  They take your photo and your fingerprints with this fancy machine thing, and put them right into the computer.  (The passports in Europe are fully fitted with biometric micro chips in them.)  Once finished there, I had to take my payment (66 Euros) to the bank and pay my passport fee to the embassy’s account.  (After the bank’s service fee, the total for the passport ended up being 70.50 Euros, which is just about $100.)

 

All in all, it was quite a process, but totally worth it.  I feel like a whole new world has been opened up to me.  And the best part – no more three month stretches apart for Miloš and I.

 

With my new friend and fellow citizen, Jolan.  She is a retired violinist!

With my new friend and fellow citizen, Jolan. She is a retired violinist!

 

Right after accepting my certificate from the ambassador.

Walking back to my seat right after accepting my certificate from the ambassador.

 

Getting ready to lead the room in the singing of the Hungarian National Anthem.

Getting ready to lead the room in the singing of the Hungarian National Anthem.

 

It's official!

It’s official!

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Author: JenSop

One of my favorite quotes is, "If your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough." I guess I've been a dreamer all my life - I set my sights high and then I try to reach the sky. Some might call me a naive idealist, but that's just the way I am. I believe in always taking the high road, I believe in true love, and I believe in treating people the way you want to be treated. If you put good out into the world, good will come back to you! Being the dreamer that I am, I pursued singing as my primary life's calling - I've got two degrees in classical voice under my belt, and I sing just about anything under the sun. I also love a good adventure. Over the past few years, I've done quite a bit of world traveling, and have even lived abroad for stretches at a time: mostly in Vienna (Austria) and Croatia. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and I became a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations. (Seriously, I KNOW Disney - I've been going regularly since I was a little girl - and I LOVE it!) And with all my experience traveling and living in Europe, I'm becoming quite the specialist in that travel category as well. (And last year, I started working as a Tour Director in Central Europe!) As to the other juicy details of my life - I'm originally from Pennsylvania, I'm married to an awesome Croatian man named Miloš who is the BEST adventure partner a girl could ask for. (He's also an expert on knowing how to make me smile.) He's truly the love of my life! I've also had all kinds of other jobs along the way, besides singer and travel pro. (Which is pretty standard for those of us who went to school for music.) I've worked part time weekends as a Disney Princess look-alike for children's parties. I've been teaching for almost 20 years, and have lots of experience in retail and customer service. Oh, and I should also probably mention that I'm a huge Lord of the Rings/Star Trek nerd! :-) Let's all go along for an adventure, shall we?

6 thoughts on “How I became a dual citizen…

  1. Pingback: “Home” is not a place. | JenSop: The Singing Travel Agent!

  2. Fascinating. I have my oath next month but I am the only one. I have studied so hard with the language and I must ask, how much were you able to speak? How could repeat the oath in one night of YouTube? I have classes 2-3 hours a day for 6 months and yes, it is difficult to learn but since 2013 they have raised the bar from simple Jó napot to low intermediate conversation. Perfect past tense and correct prefix etc. I have taken 6 months off to learn the language.
    Also, I am a German citizen (born in the USA like you) but do you just sing in German or did you learn from your father?
    Did you ever consider Austrian citizenship from your father? The only downside is that you would have to renounce your American citizenship as Austria does not allow dual citizenship.

    • Thanks for reading! To answer some of your questions:
      As singers training in opera in the USA, we have to take extensive classes in pronunciation – I took two years just of foreign language pronunciation as part of my degrees programs. Part of that is learning a special alphabet called IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet); which is comprised of various symbols that we use when learning to correctly pronounce a foreign language. As a result, opera singers get very good and quick at learning how to pronounce other languages. Hungarian looks hard, but it has straight forward pronunciation rules that remain consistent in all words. For example: Once you learn that the letter S sounds like “sh” you know that every occurrence of S will sound the same way. I worked via Skype with a Hungarian friend who helped me make sure my pronunciation was as good as possible. (Specifically to the “musicality” of the stressed vs unstressed syllables.)
      As to German language: I did hear it growing up, but I took German all four years in high school and three semesters in college – PLUS extensively singing in German on top of that. (As well as singing a lot in Italian and French.)

      I had to sing the national anthem at my oath ceremony, but again, I have trained and worked extensively as a professional singer – I learn music incredibly fast – it’s my job. So for me, that was easy. I just watched YouTube so I would know the order of events at the ceremony. (When you do what, how long it is, etc.)

      As to your other question: I could not get Austrian citizenship at all. My father was an American citizen at the time of my birth and that is what counts in Austria.
      Although I have a question for you, just because I’m curious – why you would seek Hungarian citizenship when you already have EU citizenship through Germany?

      • Thank you for your kind reply and that is a gift to be able to quickly pick up sounds and carrying that through pronunciation. I am a trained interpreter for 20 years fluent in Japanese and Russian, like you I am able to pick up languages quickly but Magyar took more time. Your are correct that they are more welcoming to Americans as they know the language is a challenge so I have invested so much time, money and travel to make sure I am ready for my short second interview (10 mins) to confirm I haven’t lost my ability to understand and speak, and then do my oath. The president already signed my certificate and I will be ready! 2013 had a lower bar on language requirements – A1 level as fine. Now they expect at least B1 or B2 level – low intermediate level. I simply want to do a great job and plus I am only one person at my oath so nowhere to hide in a group 🙂

        To answer your question. My blood is German and Hungarian and this is more out of respect for my grandparents. I am proud to be a German-Hungarian and while I don’t need another EU passport, I am doing this for respect of my grandparents. I watched your YouTube videos and your voice is angelic. I had many friends working at Disney in Paris, USA and Asia. You fit the role very well. I am glad you can know move freely with your handsome husband in the EU and not worry about a visa. I have heard it can be a very daunting process for Americans.

        Can you please send me (if you remember) which YouTube video links you watched to prepare you for the ësku and himnusz? Köszönöm!

  3. Just a follow-up. The ceremony was beautiful and the staff at the Embassy were super kind. I studied so hard and forgot one word in my oath but he kindly guided me. What a beautiful and important day in life. I sang the anthem but the staff didn’t. Such a beautiful melody and words. Büszke magyar lettem! 🙂

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