Why Become a U.S. Citizen?
Lawful permanent residents ("green card" holders) receive most of the rights of U.S. citizens and in the day-to-day life of permanent residents, the differences between them and their citizen counterparts are few. So why bother with naturalizing to U.S. citizenship?
Benefits of Naturalizing to U.S. Citizen
The Constitution and laws of the United States give many rights to both citizens and non-citizens living in the United States. However, some rights are only for citizens, such as:
- Voting. Only U.S. citizens can vote in Federal elections. Most States also restrict the right to vote, in most elections, to U.S. citizens.
- Bringing family members to the United States. Citizens generally get priority when petitioning to bring family members permanently to this country.
- Obtaining citizenship for children born abroad. In most cases, a child born abroad to a U.S. citizen is automatically a U.S. citizen.
- Traveling with a U.S. passport. A U.S. passport allows you to get assistance from the U.S. government when overseas.
- Becoming eligible for Federal jobs. Most jobs with government agencies require U.S. citizenship.
- Retaining Residency. The only way to guarantee you will forever have the right to remain in the U.S. is to naturalize. Permanent residents are always at risk of losing their permanent resident status if they spend long periods of time outside the U.S. Since 9/11, this has become a more serious problem; more and more people are losing their residency status because they are deemed by port of entry officers as having abandoned their permanent residency in the U.S.
- Deportation. If one is ever convicted of a crime - and not necessarily a very serious crime - there is a risk of being deported. Once you become a citizen, with rare exceptions, you retain your citizenship even if you run into criminal problems.
- Government Benefits. Some permanent residents are restricted from access to the same public benefits as citizens. And in recent years, there has been more and more talk of making additional kinds of public benefits only available to citizens. The only way to ensure that this will not ever be a problem is to naturalize.
- Tax Consequences. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not always treated the same for tax purposes. This is particularly true for estate taxes.
- Federal Grants. While many federal grants are available to permanent residents, more and more are only available to U.S. citizen applicants.
- Becoming an elected official. Many elected offices in this country require U.S. citizenship.
- Showing your patriotism. In addition, becoming a U.S. citizen is a way to demonstrate your commitment to your new country.
Responsibilities of U.S. Citizens
To become a U.S. citizen you must take the Oath of Allegiance. The Oath includes several promises you make when you become a U.S. citizen, including promises to:
- Give up all prior allegiance to any other nation or sovereignty;
- Swear allegiance to the United States;
- Support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States; and
- Serve the country when required.