A 2012 report by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated that almost 9 million green card holders were eligible to naturalize and become U.S. citizens. With so many permanent residents choosing to remain in their status and choosing not to pursue a path to citizenship, it is important to remind of the benefits of U.S. citizenship and the risks of remaining merely a permanent resident. The most important of these benefits and risks are listed in this blog post.
Immigration benefits for family members
Bringing family members to the U.S. – Currently, U.S. citizens are usually given higher priority when petitioning to bring a family member to U.S. For example, while spouses of U.S. citizens may be eligible to immigrate immediately, the wait time for spouses of permanent residents is close to two years.
U.S. citizenship for minor children – When a permanent resident becomes a U.S. citizen, any minor children in lawful and physical custody of the naturalized parent, will automatically become U.S. citizens. Applying for your own citizenship before your children turn 18 will thus ease their burden in the future.
Traveling with a U.S. passport – Not only does a U.S. passport provide you with plenty of hassle free travel, since many countries do not require visas from U.S. citizens, it also allows citizens to receive assistance from the U.S. government when aboard. According to this report, a U.S. passport provides visa-free access to over 170 countries. A green card does not provide the same benefits. For example, a permanent resident with an Iraqi passport only has visa-free access to 31 countries.
No travel restrictions – As a U.S. permanent resident, one faces many travel restrictions. For example, one may lose his or her status if absent from the U.S. for 180 days or longer. While a permanent resident can prolong the time abroad by obtaining a re-entry permit, this process is not without limitations. The cost alone is $445 and validity does not exceed two years. None of these restrictions apply to U.S. citizens. A U.S. citizen can live aboard without risking his or her citizenship status.
Dual citizenship option – Becoming a U.S. citizen does not automatically mean one loses his or her original citizenship. Although some countries prohibit dual citizenship, many countries allow it. A list of countries allowing dual citizenship can be found here. Since 1967, the United States has allowed naturalized citizens to retain dual citizenship.
Voting and other public benefits
Voting – Voting in federal elections is reserved for U.S. citizens. Also, most states and municipalities restrict the right to vote to U.S. citizens in their state and local elections.
Being eligible for federal jobs – Under Executive Order 11935, majority of federal government jobs are limited to U.S. citizens and nationals.
Becoming an elected official – Majority of elected offices in the U.S. require U.S. citizenship.
Financial aid benefits – Many financial aid grants and some scholarships are only available to U.S. citizens.
Risk of deportation in cases of illegal activity – Although all people in the U.S. are required to follow the law, a U.S. citizen need not fear deportation if he or she violates the law. When permanent residents commit certain crimes, their cases may be reported to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This can lead to deportation, removal, denial of a naturalization request and other possible actions by the USCIS and/or immigration court.
No more renewal or reporting requirement
No more Green Card renewals– Permanent residents have to renew their green cards every ten years. This does not apply to U.S. citizens. Also, as a U.S. citizen you will no longer be required to carry your green card with you.
No more reporting requirement – As a U.S. citizen, one no longer has to report address changes to the USCIS.
Possible economic benefits – A 2012 report by Migration Policy Institute (MPI), an independent think tank in Washington, D.C., dedicated to the analysis of the movement of people worldwide, found that “naturalized citizens earn more than their noncitizen counterparts, are less likely to be unemployed, and are better represented in highly skilled jobs.”
Keep in mind that this list does not include all of the benefits of U.S. citizenship. If you are interested in becoming a U.S. citizen and going through the naturalization process, please contact us at 1-844-HOLBORN and one of our immigration attorneys will assist and review your situation.
Disclaimer: This post is meant for general informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as legal advice. As with any laws, the information in this blog post may change at any time and may apply differently in different jurisdictions. The post may constitute Attorney Advertising as defined by the rules of professional responsibility of some jurisdictions. Holborn Law is based in Orange County and Riverside. The attorneys of Holborn Law APC are active members of the State Bar of California and licensed to practice law in California. All services relating to immigration and naturalization provided by Holborn Law APC are provided by active members of the State Bar of California or by a person under the supervision of an active member of the State Bar of California.