Why Become a United States Citizen?

United States citizenship is the final and most rewarding step in the immigration process.  I strongly recommend to each one of my clients to apply for naturalization at the first opportunity (for most, it’s 5 years after being conferred LPR status; for some, it’s 3 years).  If you plan to make the United States your permanent home, there is very little benefit to maintaining lawful permanent resident alien status over becoming a U.S. citizen.  The rewards for citizenship are great, while the downside for LPR status could be severe.  Here are a few reasons why I believe naturalization should be the ultimate goal of your immigration journey.

The Right to Vote

Regardless of your political affiliations, the right to vote in federal, state, and local elections is a privilege that should not be taken for granted.  It’s one of the few ways in which your political views may be expressed.   Voting is essential for the preservation of our democracy.  Because you’ve chosen to make the United States your home, you should help to preserve its democratic traditions and institutions. 

Sponsorship of Family Members

If you are a U.S. citizen, you can easily sponsor your spouse, your children who are under 21 years old, and your parents (if you are over 21 years old yourself).  These family members are considered “immediate relatives,” and are exempt from the numerical limitations imposed on other types of family members, such as siblings.  A lawful permanent resident applying to sponsor his or her spouse may oftentimes have to wait several years before the petition is finalized.  In contrast, the processing time for the same petition made by a citizen is only several months.

Protect Your Children’s Right to Remain in the U.S.

If you naturalize, your children who live with you and who are under 18 years of age automatically derive U.S. citizenship as well.   This is a great way to ensure that your children’s right to remain in the U.S. is protected.  Not only that, you save them the time, money, and hassle of having to apply for naturalization themselves.

Peace of Mind from Being Deported

If you are a LPR, the bottom line is that you are merely a guest of the U.S. government, regardless of how long you have had LPR status.  You remain under the authority of USCIS and ICE, and may be deported for any number of reasons, especially if you are convicted of certain crimes.   Also, by law you must report your whereabouts to USCIS anytime you move to a different address.  You also have to apply for renewal of your LPR status every few years.  As a citizen however, you are free from the authority of USCIS or ICE.  You cannot be deported, even if you commit a serious crime.   Best of all, you don’t have to worry about dealing with USCIS or ICE once you naturalize because you no longer have any type of reporting requirements to these agencies.

Peace of Mind When Traveling Abroad

If you a LPR, you must ask to be readmitted to the U.S. each time you leave the country and return.  You may be denied readmission if the customs officer has reason to believe that you committed a crime which makes you admissible (you don’t necessarily have to have been convicted–reasonable suspicion is sufficient).  Also, you may lose your status as a permanent resident if you are out of the U.S. for more than 180 days.  In order to return, you must apply for a re-entry permit.   If you are out of the United States for more than a year, you LPR card will likely be revoked.   However, as a U.S. Citizen, these restrictions don’t apply.  You can spend as much time outside the U.S. as you want, even living in a foreign country for years without consequence.   You are not ever required to obtain a re-entry permit. An additional bonus is that many foreign countries do not require entry visas for holders of U.S. passports.  When you travel, you are under the protection of the U.S. State Department, which maintains embassies and consulates in most countries in the world.  Otherwise, you are literally on your own.

Eligibility for Certain Government Jobs

This issue has come up for many of my clients who had to apply for naturalization on short term basis when they learned that the dream job they had just been offered required citizenship.  Many public sector jobs, especially for the federal government, require that the employee be U.S. citizens.  Even some private sector jobs (i.e., in the defense industry if the job calls for a security clearance) require that the employee be a U.S. citizen.   Do not be left out of the running for a government job because you never bothered to apply for naturalization.

A Point About Dual Nationality

Dual nationality allows a citizen of one country to simultaneously hold the citizenship of one or more additional counties.  The United States recognizes dual nationality, but does not encourage it.  It is important to conduct yourself as an American citizen even if you are a citizen of another country, especially when it comes to traveling in and out of the United States.   For instance, you should always use your U.S. passport when entering or exiting the country. 

Many other countries permit their citizens to acquire U.S. citizenship while at the same time retaining citizenship of their home countries.  The list below is not exhaustive. 

  • Australia
  • Bangladesh
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Switzerland
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Serbia and Montenegro
  • Finland
  • France
  • United Kingdom
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Lebanon
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Pakistan
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Sweden
  • Slovakia
  • El Salvador
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Venezuela

Because citizenship laws of foreign countries may change without notice, I strongly urge you to inquire about your country’s policies before applying for naturalization if you are the least bit concerned about this issue.  A good place to start is your country’s consular office or embassy.

Do You Qualify for Naturalization?

In order to be eligible to apply for naturalization, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You have been a lawful permanent resident of the United States for five years; or three years if you are married to a US citizen for the three years of permanent residency, and continue to be married to the U.S. citizen; or three years if you have qualifying military service.
  • You are able to pass a test regarding United States history and civics.
  • You meet certain residency and physical presence requirements.
  • You maintained good moral character for at least 5 years prior to applying for naturalization.
Powered by WordPress | Designed by: free wp themes | Thanks to coupon code and cheap hosting