Woman Seeking U.S. Citizenship Finds Out She was Citizen All Along

SACRAMENTO -- Snapping photos and clutching American flags -- these are the faces of newly naturalized citizens.

"Ecstatic!" said Hannie Gerdeman.

Seventy-year-old Gerdeman is one of them.

"This is such a relief," she said.

Gerdeman was born in Suriname, in South America, but lives in Holland.

She wanted to gain citizenship so she could stay in the country indefinitely to be with her sick mother, without the limitations of a tourist visa.

"It was quite a hassle every time," Gerdeman said.

When she contacted immigration attorney Thomas Baker she got quite the surprise.

"When he told us, we were all shocked!" she said.

Baker discovered Gerdeman wouldn't have to wait 10 to 15 years like she thought.

"He says 'but you're a citizen,'" she said laughing.

Baker noticed Gerdeman's mother and deceased father were U.S. citizens and that at one point she lived with them in the U.S. as a child and previously had a green card.

"I had to research the law from the time they became citizens and she was born, and saw they met the requirements, and figured let's go for it," Baker said.

Thursday afternoon, the path toward citizenship was completed. Gerdeman led the pledge of allegiance at her oath ceremony and got her certificate -- which dates back 60 years.

Baker said this case is unusual and it's the only one he has ever handled like it.

An unusual case marking a new beginning for a proud citizen who can now vote, get a U.S. passport and stay in the U.S. for as long as she wants.

"I'm 70! What am I going to do now?" Gerdeman said.