The Benefits Of Becoming A U.S. Citizen
If you are a permanent resident, you are already experiencing the many privileges of owning a green card, such as having an easier time leaving the country and not worrying about renewal for 10 years. While having a green card has advantages over residing in the U.S. undocumented, going through the process of naturalization or becoming a citizen carries the most benefits. Below are a few of the benefits of becoming a United States citizen:
- Bringing family members to the United States: Citizens can apply to bring more types of family members to the U.S, than an individual with a green card. You can petition for your parents and spouses to immigrate.
- Citizenship for children: Unmarried children under 18 may become citizens if their parents are citizens under certain circumstances. This is separate from the naturalization process.
- No deportation: U.S. citizens cannot be deported. They may travel abroad without worrying about reentry permits or losing legal status. If a green card holder is convicted of certain crimes and leaves the country for any reason, he or she may be placed in removal proceedings when trying to reenter the country. Additionally, U.S. citizens can obtain a passport and all the travel rights afforded to U.S. citizens. There are also no limits to how long you can remain outside of the U.S.
- Less paperwork: While a green card holder does not need to renew his or her card for 10 years, a United States citizen never has to renew citizenship.
- Freedom to move without informing the government: Green card holders must inform USCIS when their address changes. This is not true for U.S. citizens, who can move as they please.
- Eligibility for government jobs: Many federal government jobs require you be a U.S. citizen.
- Receive full social security benefits: Social security offers unemployment and retirement benefits to U.S. citizens, while those benefits may be restricted for noncitizens.
- More opportunities to receive financial aid for higher education: Citizens have more access to funding for college or graduate school such as government financial aid and scholarships.
- Own a gun: The Constitution of the United States allows individuals to own guns. However, many laws require an individual be a U.S. citizen in order to own a gun.
- Voting rights: Citizens may vote in local and national elections. Additionally, U.S. citizens may run and be elected to public office.
The Naturalization Process
The naturalization process has basic requirements. To become a United States citizen, an individual must:
- Be18 years old
- Have been a permanent resident (hold a green card) for at least five years, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen.
- Be able to show you have been continuously living in the United States at least half of the requisite time period for citizenship (three or five years).
- Be able to read, speak and write basic English
- Be able to pass a government and history test
- Be of good moral character
- Be willing to take an oath of loyalty to the United States
What Is Good Moral Character?
While some requirements seem easy to establish, others can be more difficult. For example, there is not a clear definition of “good moral character.” Basically, it means a person is generally a law-abiding citizen. But even an average citizen can make mistakes. Good moral character is decided by an officer of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or an immigration court judge.
Applying For Naturalization With A Criminal Background
A criminal background may pose the largest obstacle to becoming a United States citizen. Even if you were convicted of a crime, you are not automatically banned from obtaining citizenship. Finding a person to be of good moral character is an act of discretion. Therefore, if you have any criminal background, it is best to speak to an experienced immigration attorney before filing any application with USCIS. Some crimes will not only cause a denial, but also cause a person to be placed into removal/deportation proceedings.
At Cynthia I. Waisman P.A., we will work to help you obtain all the documents you need to prove good moral character and argue on your behalf.
Other Common Pitfalls
There are other pitfalls in applying for naturalization which are common, such as spending too much time out of the United States, IRS tax delinquencies, child support issues, and selective service requirements. Therefore, it is important to be sure to review the application carefully and seek legal advice prior to submitting these applications.
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Becoming a citizen of the United States makes the greatest statement of patriotism and awards an individual with all the rights possible. It eliminates the limitations a green card may impose.