Claudell Louis got the OK to put his NFL career on hold – U.S. citizenship was that important.
The government returned the favor for the former College of the Sequoias and Fresno State star, granting him an expedited swearing-in before Louis hurried back to offseason workouts with the Buffalo Bills.
Tired of having to regularly renew his green card since arriving from Haiti in 2001, Louis and his mother, Illna, were sworn in May 31. His father, Winer, became an American citizen Tuesday, Louis said.
“When you sign up for citizenship, they give you a book which contains 100 questions,” Louis said Wednesday from Orchard Park, N.Y., the site of the Bills’ organized team activities. “It’s actually an interview and they give you an appointment and they’re supposed to ask you 10 questions, but for me they asked three to four questions. They asked me to read a sentence out loud and write it down. That was pretty much it.”
Sharon Scheidhauer, a spokesperson for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Orlando, said after naturalization is approved, applicants typically wait “a week or two” for the swearing-in. But with OTAs calling him back to New York the day after his test, they allowed him and his mother into that week’s ceremony.
It happened very quickly for him.
Sharon Scheidhauer, a spokesperson for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
“It happened very quickly for him,” she said. “In those type of situations, they tell us something like that, it’s something with their job, extenuating circumstances, then we will naturalize them right then and there, which is what we did for him.”
Louis had his green card when he arrived for his freshman season in 2011 at College of the Sequoias.
“They give you a green card for a (certain) amount of years,” the 6-foot-5, 294 pound defensive end said, “and once the day comes for an expiration date, you have to go back and ask for a renewal or get your citizenship.
“I just kind of killed two birds with one stone, and with the opportunity in the NFL, I just went ahead and finally took advantage of it, to go ahead and get the citizenship done.”
Bills coach Rex Ryan granted Louis permission to go to Florida to complete the citizenship process.
Mandatory minicamp begins next week, followed by training camp next month. Louis signed as an undrafted free agent with the Bills in April after earning honorable mention All-Mountain West Conference honors while recording 47 tackles and five sacks as a Bulldogs senior.
Louis hasn’t returned to Haiti for 15 years, but numerous relatives still live there.
“I would like to go back one day when the opportunity presents itself,” he said.
Louis lived with his father for 12 years in Haiti, visiting his mom in Florida each summer. He eventually remained in the United States and graduated from Boynton Beach High School, though with little football experience, playing just one season.
In 2010, his homeland suffered a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. More than 160,000 people died, though Louis said his relatives were fine.
Louis worked in a retirement home before moving to Visalia, joining the COS team at the recommendation of a friend. Louis played 11 games as a freshman and four as a sophomore before transferring to Fresno State, where he finished his Bulldogs career with 57 tackles with 5.5 sacks.
Now he’ll try to convert his long-shot NFL bid, though gaining citizenship is a significant relief as he moves forward with his career.
It was like a big monkey off my back because I didn’t have to worry about immigration anymore going back and forth by asking for a renewal.
Former Fresno State star Claudell Louis
“My green card was going to expire in December,” Louis said. “It was like a big monkey off my back because I didn’t have to worry about immigration anymore by going back and forth asking for a renewal. Getting the citizenship is a good feeling.”