25 Famous People You Didn’t Know Got American Citizenship
In 2018, some 757,000 people became United States citizens. You might be surprised to learn of some very prominent personalities who have taken the Oath of Allegiance just as these folks did last year.
The legendary rocker counts as one of the 757,000 who became a U.S. citizen in 2018. Born in Middlesex, England, Billy Idol made his American citzenship official on November 14, 2018. As a play on his popular ’80s hit “White Wedding,” the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services tweeted, “It’s a nice day for a naturalization ceremony,” in his honor. Anyone applying for U.S. citizenship must pass a written test, and these are the questions even most Americans would get wrong.
Musician Dave Matthews feels so integral to the American music tapestry that it’s easy to forget (or not even be aware) that he was actually born in Johannesburg, South Africa. His family moved around quite a bit but in 1980 he became a naturalized United States citizen. Listen closely to his music and you can hear the international influence from his early travels.
Pam Anderson probably seems like the quintessential California girl. But just because she played her Baywatch character CJ Parker like a natural doesn’t mean she grew up on those sandy Los Angeles beaches. Hailing from Canada (more specifically the province of British Columbia), Anderson became a U.S. citizen in 2004.
Though he served as the governor of California for eight years, Arnold Schwarzenegger was not born a US citizen. The actor-turned-politician called Austria home until he moved to the U.S. in 1968, at 21 years of age. Fifteen years later he became an American citizen.
He may have married an American Idol when he wed Carrie Underwood in 2010, but professional hockey player Mike Fisher didn’t become an official U.S. citizen until March 2019. The Canadian-born athlete played for the Ottawa Senators before heading south to join the Nashville Predators. He has since retired from the sport. Fisher, and many others on this list, might be confused by these things about America foreigners don’t understand.
Michael J. Fox
The beloved TV and film actor is Canadian-born, becoming a naturalized American citizen in 1999. Michael J. Fox is still incredibly proud of his roots. In 1987 he famously said, “I’m real proud of the fact that if you say ‘Russia’ to the average American, he thinks ‘Cold War,’ and if you say ‘Russia’ to a Canadian he thinks ‘hockey.’”
If you watch quiz shows, Alex Trebek is likely a familiar face in your home on a nightly basis as the host of Jeopardy!. Born in Ontario, Canada, Trebek became a U.S. citizen in November 1997, 13 years after assuming his duties on the long-running game show. The Associated Press reported that Trebek joked about how becoming an American citizen didn’t immediately change his life until he received one very important request. “A couple of weeks after being sworn in, I received a lovely letter from the Los Angeles Superior Court informing me that I had just been selected at random from 2 1/2 million people to serve jury duty,” he said.
A native of Benoni, South Africa, actress Charlize Theron, who won an Academy Award for her role in the 2003 film Monster, moved to the States at the age of 19 to pursue her show biz career. In 2007 she became an American citizen. After taking her oath of allegiance she told David Letterman in an appearance on The Late Show: “You’re stuck with me now.”
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The Irish actor became a citizen of the U.S. in 2009, following the death of his wife Natasha Richardson due to injuries sustained in a skiing accident. Interestingly Neeson told the New York Daily News that he chose to gain dual citizenship because of the tremendous amount of warmth and support he received from Americans in the months following Richardson’s untimely death.
At the age of 30, singer-songwriter Alanis Morisette became an official American. It was during a 2005 ceremony in Los Angeles alongside approximatley 4,500 others that Morisette took the oath of allegiance, giving her dual citizenship in both the States and her home country of Canada. “There was a turning point during the ceremony where I felt connected to this country in a way that I didn’t quite expect,” she said in a statement. “America has been really great to me and I have felt welcomed since the day I came here.” One of Morissette’s best-known hits is “Ironic,” and you won’t believe these examples of real-life irony.
Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara pursued quite a different life for herself in her native country of Colombia where she initially studied dentistry before moving to the U.S. Bitten by the show biz bug, Vergara was here to stay when she started landing modeling and acting gigs. In 2014 she revealed she had recently become a U.S. citizen, incredibly proud that she achieved a perfect score on her citizenship test.
While it’s unclear exactly when country superstar Keith Urban was granted U.S. citzenship (he originally hails from New Zealand), there’s no doubt about his pride in being an American. “First of all, I’m an American citizen, and I support supporting our country as a citizen,” Urban told the televison show ITK when asked if he would perform at the White House. “I would like to probably answer that question when it comes up. But I’m a citizen, and I like to do what’s right.”
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This London-born actress decided to pursue U.S. citizenship in 2011 to avoid any potential green card issues when returning to her home country of England for any extended period of time. Aside from the privilege of being able to vote in this country, Weisz is tickled by another custom when she returns to the U.S. from abroad. “When I come back into the country now and they stamp my passport they say ‘Welcome home, Ma’am,’” she said in an interview with Express. “I think that’s a lovely formality. No one in England would say that, would they?”
The year was 2004 when actor and comedian Jim Carrey officially became a U.S. citizen, having lived and worked in the States for some time, most notably getting his big break on the ’90s FOX series In Living Color. He maintains dual citizenship in the United States and Canada.
British actress Emily Blunt remembers the day she was sworn in as an American citizen well. It was 2015 and she had another famous face by her side. “It was the most bizarre day. Matthew McConaughey’s wife (Camila Alves) was getting sworn in with me, who is so nice,” she said in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel. “McConaughey shows up looking like he’s going on safari. I was like, ‘You could have worn a shirt and tie. Like, Camila looks amazing.” Blunt isn’t the only Brit whose might be seeking duel citizenship. Here’s why (or why not) Harry and Meghan’s baby might get American citizenship.
Unabashedly vocal about politics on her late night talker Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, the television host can vote in both the United States and her home country of Canada with dual citizenship. She took the oath of allegiance in 2014 at the same time as her husband, actor Jason Jones.
The Big Sick star Kumail Nanjiani was 18 years old when he moved from his home in Pakistan to the United States. After attending Iowa’s Grinnell College, he became a U.S. citizen (eventually his parents and brother followed him to America). Working as an actor since 2008, Nanjiani scored his most high-profile gig as one of the stars of Silicon Valley in 2014.
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In what appeared to be no rush to gain his citizenship despite living in the U.S. for two decades, this former 007 star became an American in 2004. Pierce Brosnan originally hails from Ireland and continues to have a soft spot for his home country. “I found a whole new life and identity in America but my heart and soul will be forever Irish,” he said in a statement following his swearing-in ceremony.
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Born in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico, actress Salma Hayek moved to Los Angeles in 1991 to pursue her acting career, landing roles on several TV series shortly thereafter. Before becoming a U.S. citizen, Hayek revealed to V Magazine Spain that she did have a bit of a paperwork slipup that needed fixing, referring to herself as “a former illegal immigrant” because her visa had briefly expired in those early days. She reportedly quickly returned to Mexico to renew the visa.
Nicknamed “The Great One” by his fans, retired hockey player and sports icon Wayne Gretzky is another famous face who maintains dual-citizenship in his home country of Canada and the United States. Despite singing the praises of his home country, Gretzky did express his frustration with the Canadian goverment back in 2015 because of rules exempting long-term Canadian expats like himself, from voting in an election. How well do you know America? These are some amazing facts about the country that may surprise you.
Nia Vardalos may have brought her Greek heritage to the fore with her 2002 hit film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but the actress grew up north of the U.S. in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. She became an American citizen in 1999. More recently Vardalos scored a New York Times bestseller with her book Instant Mom, about her experience adopting a daughter through the American foster care system.
Sir Anthony Hopkins caused quite a stir when he decided to become a U.S. citizen in 2000. The actor has been knighted by the Queen of England in 1993 (hence the “Sir” before his name), and some thought the title should be taken away when he pursued dual citizenship. British tabloids even nicknamed Hopkins “Lecter the Defector,” a nod to his infamous Silence of the Lambs character. Silence of the Lambs easily ranks as one of the scariest movies of all time, but here’s what else made the list.
The former Saturday Night Live star and all-around funny guy can call not one, not two, but three countries home, legally. Martin Short maintains citizenship in Canada, where he was born, as well as the United States and England. He currently resides in the Pacific Palisades, California, where he and his late wife Nancy Dolman raised their three children.
Add Will & Grace star Eric McCormack to the list of talented Canadians who have also become naturalized U.S. Citizens. McCormack took the citizen’s oath in 1999 (just like his peer Vardalos). Despite being best known for his acting chops, McCormack has a great voice and sang both the Canadian and American National Anthems at the 54th NHL All-Star Game in 2004.
Eddie Van Halen
Van Halen feels synonymous with American rock ‘n roll, and it is, but guitarist Eddie Van Halen originally hails from the Netherlands. The Van Halens moved to the United States when the budding musician was 7 years old and later became naturalized citizens. In 2015 he donated some of his iconic guitars to the Smithsonian, telling the Associated Press, “What more could you ask for to be recognized as being part of having contributed to change, you know? … All I can say is ‘only in America.’” Van Halen and all the other new US citizens will just have to be extra careful not to break the law with any of the 50 things you won’t believe are banned in America.