The United States offers several ways for foreign nationals to live and work in the U.S. legally. Many immigrants who come to the United States plan to eventually become citizens. The path to citizenship is long and complicated, but it can be incredibly rewarding.
While permanent resident status has several advantages, the U.S. citizenship benefits that come with naturalization are far greater. For many, citizenship is the natural next step after becoming a permanent resident. However, citizenship comes with responsibilities as well.
U.S. Citizenship Through Naturalization
Naturalization is the legal process by which foreign nationals can become citizens of the United States. To qualify for naturalization, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Be over the age of 18
- Be a permanent resident for three to five years
- Live in the U.S. continuously
- Read, write, and speak basic English
- Good moral character
- Understand U.S. history and government
- Loyalty to the principles of the constitution
- Take the Oath of Allegiance
Depending on your immigration category, the process of becoming a citizen can take years. Nevertheless, most petitioners would agree that citizenship is well worth the wait. U.S. citizenship provides multiple benefits.
Protection From Deportation
Permanent residents, also known as green card holders, can be deported from the U.S. after committing certain crimes. Drug convictions, lying on immigration applications, marriage fraud, and domestic violence could all land you in immigration court—even if you’re a minor. Protect yourself and your children by becoming a citizen.
After becoming a U.S. citizen, you cannot be deported to your home country. Naturalized citizens have as much right to live in the United States as American-born citizens. U.S. citizenship will protect you from deportation.
An End of Immigration Paperwork
A permanent resident card must be renewed every 10 years. U.S. citizens never have to renew their citizenship. Naturalization means an end to filing immigration paperwork.
And end to paperwork also no more filing fees. In the long run, applying for U.S. citizenship can be less expensive than paying for a green card renewal over and over.
Citizenship for Your Children. Their Citizenship is FREE & Automatic!
When you become a citizen, your children do too. Permanent resident children of U.S. citizens automatically receive citizenship when a parent naturalizes. Save them the pain of paying $1,170 for a Certificate of Citizenship after they turn 18. Give them the full rights of citizenship now, including protection from deportation.
Children can’t apply for citizenship through naturalization. Instead, they automatically receive citizenship for free when a parent naturalizes, as long as they are under 18 and in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent. If you have a child born abroad, that child may inherit your U.S. citizenship status as well.
Sponsor More Family Members for Citizenship
The right of U.S. citizens to petition relatives for permanent residency is another important benefit of citizenship. Permanent residents can also petition relatives, but not nearly as many and the process takes much longer.
Only U.S. citizens can sponsor parents and siblings. There are an unlimited number of immigrant visas for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (parents, children, and spouses) each year. That means their visas are processed faster.
A United States citizen can bring more family to the U.S. sooner.
Voting in U.S. Elections
Permanent residents cannot vote in U.S. elections. When it comes to U.S. citizenship, the right to vote is one of the most important benefits offered. Only U.S. citizens have the right to shape the country by voting in federal, state, and local elections.
After obtaining U.S. citizenship you will be able to apply for a U.S. passport. A U.S. passport gives you one of the best travel benefits by allowing you to move freely throughout most of the world without a visa.
U.S. permanent residents need to obtain special permission to leave the country for longer than a year or risk losing their status. If a relative falls ill, you may want to return home to care for them. Having citizenship means you can focus on your loved ones and not have to worry about expiring immigration documents.
Your U.S. passport also allows you to get assistance from the U.S. government outside of the country. For example, when U.S. citizens travel abroad, they can seek help from U.S. embassies and consulates if they are a victim of a crime or need help during emergencies or disasters.
Increased Earning Potential
Research shows that naturalized citizens achieve an increase in earnings by 8-11% nationally. Citizenship ensures you’re proficient in the English language, committed to remaining in the country, enables you to travel freely with a U.S. passport, and simply gain access to more jobs.
And finally, employers often prefer to hire citizens over non-citizens. When citizens and noncitizens are equally qualified for a job, employers may legally choose U.S. citizenship as the basis for employment.
Working for the Government
While a work visa will allow you to hold most jobs, only U.S. citizens can apply for most jobs within the federal government. For example, only U.S. citizens can be police officers. Federal jobs tend to be very secure and high-paying.
Becoming an Elected Official
If you want to make a difference in your community, you can run for elected office as a US citizen. Elected officials are the ones who create laws and regulations at the local, state, and federal level.
Tax Benefits of U.S. Citizenship
U.S. citizens and green card holders may not always be treated the same when it comes to taxes. Citizens may pay less for estate taxes and may be eligible for more tax exemptions. U.S. Citizens are also eligible for Social Security benefits.
What Are the Responsibilities of a U.S. Citizen?
Some permanent residents may choose not to pursue citizenship if their home country doesn’t recognize dual citizenship. In which case, you would have to renounce your home country’s citizenship to become a U.S. citizen.
While United States citizenship benefits are worthwhile, there are additional responsibilities for U.S. citizens to consider before applying for naturalization.
Selective Service Registration
Male U.S. citizens aged 18 through 25 are required to register with Selective Service. This does not mean you will be enlisted in the armed forces. There hasn’t been a draft call since December 7, 1972. Drafted men must be examined for physical and mental wellness to serve.
U.S. citizens are required to file income tax returns. Even if you move abroad, you must still file taxes with the United States. Ordinarily, only income over $100,000 will be taxed abroad.
Many believe that if you register to vote, you also have to serve on a jury. In reality, holding a driver’s license and paying utility bills can also lead to a jury duty summons. You must attend jury selection if you are summoned.
Jury duty service is not just a responsibility but a right protected by the U.S. constitution. By serving on a jury, you preserve other U.S. citizens’ right to face an impartial jury in a court of law. It also grants you the privilege of an inside look at the U.S. justice system.
How to Become a U.S. Citizen
Green card holders can become U.S. citizens by going through a process called naturalization. In most cases, you must be at least 18 years old and have been a green card holder for at least five years to be eligible for naturalization. You must also have lived in the same U.S. state for three months before you apply to naturalize.
And you must have lived in the U.S. for more than 30 months out of the past five years. However, these requirements vary depending on your circumstance. For example, people who have a marriage-based green card only to have had a green card for three years before they are eligible.
Ready to Apply for U.S. Citizenship?
To apply for naturalization, file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. After you submit your form and other required documents, you will have an interview with a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer and take an English and civics exam.
The English exam tests your ability to read, write and speak basic English. The civics exam tests your understanding of the U.S. government and U.S. history.
After your application is approved, you will take an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. This is a promise to support and defend the U.S. Constitution and laws and renounce your loyalty to any other country. Once you’ve been sworn in, you can enjoy life as a U.S. citizen and all the benefits that come with it.