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.
The Right to Stay in the U.S.
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. Permanent residents, also known as green card holders, can be deported from the U.S. after committing certain crimes. U.S. citizenship will allow you to stay.
The 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
As a U.S. citizen, your children automatically get U.S. citizenship. This doesn’t just apply to any children born after your naturalization. If you have a child born abroad, that child may inherit your U.S. citizenship status as well.
Sponsoring 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 more time compared to a petition by a U.S. citizen.
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. Your U.S. passport also allows you to get assistance from the U.S. government outside of the country.
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.
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.