Some of the country’s newest citizens joined in a celebration Wednesday for an unveiling of the new Vermont field office for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — which is a design the agency says will be used as a model for future buildings nationwide.
The USCIS Burlington Field Office, located close to Interstate 89 in Colchester, replaces a facility in St. Albans. It serves all of Vermont and part of northern New York.
Inspired by what it learned throughout the pandemic, the agency said its buildings will now better incorporate space for video meetings and be more streamlined for efficiency.
"We won’t have to lead people back through a maze of cubicles to perform a private interview," USCIS Deputy Director Jennifer Higgins told the audience gathered for Wednesday’s dedication ceremony.
Naturalization interviews, permanent resident processing, in-person appointments, fingerprinting, and official photography are among the services that will be offered in the new facility.
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After USCIS cut the ribbon on the field office, officials administered the oath of allegiance to a dozen new citizens.
"It’s a really important day," said Paola Bayne, a Brazilian-American who works in finance in Rutland. "It’s a country of opportunities."
"It’s a very special moment," added Lucero Mullins, a Peruvian-American who first came to Vermont under a student visa to work at a ski resort — that industry really depends on young people like her.
Mullins at first thought she’d just be here a short while, she said.
"Life brought me here, and I met the love of my life and I have a beautiful family and my life is here," Mullins told NECN & NBC10 Boston. "I did (work visa trips) twice and I fell in love with Vermont right away."
Mullins and Bayne both said their first order of business is registering to vote in Vermont’s primary election in August and in the general in November, with Bayne adding she looks forward to proudly wearing her "I voted" sticker.