After a Long Road, Moore Alumna Becomes U.S. Citizen

On June 24, 2013, Harshita Lohia became a United States citizen.

Surrounded by more than 15 Moore alumnae who came out to support her, Lohia took the oath of citizenship and sang the national anthem.

For Lohia, a 2002 Moore graduate in Textile Design, the exciting day signified the end of years of immigration struggles. She was born in Kolkata, capital of the Indian state of West Bengal, but has lived in the United States for 17 years.

“It kind of hit me at first during the [citizenship] ceremony that I’m giving up my Indian citizenship, but at the same this [the U.S.] is where my heart and my life is, and I’ve been here so long, this is where my home is and my business.”

Lohia, who lives in Yardley, PA., is the owner of Harshita Designs, which manufactures fashion and textiles such as scarves, ties, jackets and other clothing.

In order to become a U.S. citizen, Lohia had to pass a writing and reading test and have all of her paperwork in order.

She had been allowed to come to the U.S. on a student visa since 1997. She began studying at the Art Institute of Chicago before coming to Moore.

“Every time I came to the U.S., I had to re-apply for a visa,” she said. “You never knew if your visa would be approved or not. Following [the terrorist attacks of] 9-11, everything changed with security.”

Lohia attended Moore for four years and then earned her master’s degree in Textile Design at Philadelphia University.

In 2005, she experienced a major setback when her house burned down in a devastating electrical fire. She lost nine years worth of work from both her graduate and undergraduate programs, as well as important paperwork for her citizenship, and couldn’t find a job to keep her in the country.

“At that point it was the most difficult,” she said. “Every company I interviewed at asked for a portfolio and I didn’t have one. It was covered in soot and flames. If I didn’t find a job, I would have had to go back to India.”

Luckily, she was able to return to Moore and work for the admissions and continuing education departments. In 2009, her husband got his citizenship and was able to sponsor her green card. That’s when she started her own business.

“You can be on your green card forever, but you have to stay on it for at least four years to actually apply for citizenship,” she said. “I applied in March of 2013 because it had been four years. It is quite a process.”

With her newly minted U.S. citizenship, Lohia can now travel to other countries without a visa. That is important for her business, as her fashion collections are inspired in part by England, Germany and other countries.

“Being a US citizen, it will be a lot easier for me to travel and do my work,” she said. “I have a lot of freedom to expand my work and to hire Americans. Once I got my green card I was able to hire seamstresses here in the U.S. I always hire Moore alumnae to work for me. I have a Made in the USA label on all my garments. The fabrics are printed in my factory in India and also made in the USA with imported fabric. So that means a lot to me that it’s made here.”

Today, she sells her line in over 50 museums and 350 stores.

“I’m a lucky girl,” she said. “I always wanted to be an artist and I followed my dreams.”


 

Published on July 9th, 2013