If you had your taxes done at Epic Trust this year, you might have seen a new face around the Richland office, that of Tsveti Reil.
Tsveti is the wife of Tyson Reil, Epic’s chief marketing officer and president of insurance, and a licensed insurance professional herself. Something many people might not know about her is that she recently became a United States citizen.
Originally from Pleven, Bulgaria, Tsveti and Tyson met back in 2003 when Tyson was in Bulgaria on a mission trip after graduating high school. Tsveti didn’t speak any English at the time, but Tyson knew Bulgarian. The two soon fell in love.
At the end of his mission, Tyson had to go back to the U.S., but he shortly returned to Bulgaria to marry Tsveti. Tsveti moved to the U.S. to join Tyson and begin their life together. Coming into a new country and culture not knowing the native language she described as “shocking.”
Fortunately, she had a new family to welcome and support her. “Tyson helped me translate. He has a huge family and we lived with them for five months and that helped a lot,” Tsveti said, explaining that having so many opportunities to watch conversations unfold between different people and learn conversation patterns helped her pick up English faster.
“I was just like a sponge and absorbing everything, it was overwhelming. So many people don’t understand differences in culture; it’s not only coming from a different language, everything is different: the food, the way of living and the culture of the people,” Tsveti says.
Another thing she said she had going for her was that she was “young and not set in my ways,” so was more openminded to all the new experiences of her new life.
Tsveti became a Permanent Resident and obtained her “Green Card” as the spouse of a U.S. citizen. This allowed her to live in the U.S. for up to ten years. Though Tsveti quickly came to learn the customs and ways of her new home, it would be five years with her feet on U.S. soil before she would be eligible to apply for citizenship.
The years passed, three children came along and the pace of life picked up. Suddenly, almost ten years had gone by and it was time to either renew her Green Card or apply for citizenship.
“Once you have the Green Card, you don’t really think about the citizenship. You can do everything as a citizen except vote and you can’t be on a jury, or run for office,” she explained.
Based on the estimated application processing times for each route, Tsveti opted to just renew her Green Card and work on her citizenship application in the meantime.
Another ten years later and this past January found Tsveti beginning the process of applying for citizenship.
“I applied on January 20. That can take from eight to nine months, but it didn’t take that long for me,” she said, explaining that she didn’t have to have fingerprints made again since she had to have them for her insurance license and previous Green Cards.
“After that, they give you an interview appointment. Mine was April 25. It was very quick, probably only fifteen minutes. The study questions are online with the answers (they will accept). Out of the 100 questions, they ask you ten questions and you have to answer six correctly. Some are pretty easy and you know them just by living here.”
The nearest citizenship interviews are conducted at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office at 415 North Third Street in Yakima. To prepare, Tsveti said she watched interactive YouTube videos where a woman would pose a grouping of the questions, then pause allowing the viewer time to respond as if they were in a real interview.
She also had to say some sentences in English to prove her language proficiency.
Tsveti passed and on May 10 received her naturalization papers at a ceremony held at the Yakima USCIS office.
Afterward, “some of my friends had a party for me. It was the perfect timing – she had all the decorations for 4th of July.” She said another friend printed out the 100 citizenship questions so that attendees could see if their civic knowledge was up to snuff.
Tsveti reflected, “I don’t know a lot of people who have applied for their citizenship, and not a lot of people I’ve talked to do either.”
She said she is excited to vote for the first time. “I have never voted because I was pretty young and I wasn’t really thinking about voting at the time in Bulgaria. Then I got married and moved here. So, that will be interesting,” she mused.
Though she retains her Bulgarian citizenship, Tsveti said another factor that pushed her to go for her citizenship this time around was that her Bulgarian passport expired after only five years. To obtain a new one while in the U.S., she would have had to travel to one of only two Bulgarian embassies in the entire country—one is in Washington D.C., the other in Los Angeles.
The Reils are planning a trip to Bulgaria and Tsveti would otherwise have had no pass out of the country without becoming a citizen, which made her eligible for a U.S. passport. Before she became a citizen, she didn’t relish the thought of being separated from her kids—who are born U.S. citizens—upon reentry into the U.S.
But now she doesn’t have to worry about any of that.
With all three kids off to school these days, the stay-at-home mom is looking at how she can support Tyson and his team at Epic Trust. Chances are, you’ll probably see a glimpse of her helping out around the Richland office. If you do, be sure to say an extra congratulations to one of our newest citizens!