Legal permanent residents (LPR), also known as green card holders, may apply to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen. For those who received their green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen, they can apply after 3 years of being an LPR. For all other categories, the wait to apply is after 5 years of being an LPR.
There are many benefits to becoming a U.S. citizen, and for those who wish to do so, they should begin the process as soon as they are eligible.
So, what are some of the benefits of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen?
1. You can obtain a U.S. passport
When you become a U.S. citizen, you no longer need your green card, as you will have a naturalization certificate and officially be a U.S. citizen.
As a new U.S. citizen, you are eligible to apply for a U.S. passport, which will allow you to travel more easily then when you had a green card.
In general, you will have easier access into other countries, and for many countries, you can visit without obtaining a visa first.
2. You can more easily travel to and from the U.S.
If you are a green card holder, you may not be aware that you don’t have complete freedom to travel outside the U.S., as the U.S. government places some travel restrictions and rules on green card holders.
For example, when a green card holder wants to travel outside of the U.S., they are required to file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, which will allow them re-entry into the U.S.
Although this is just one example, the various travel restrictions and rules apply no matter how long you have been a green card holder.
With U.S. citizenship, however, you are able to travel outside of the U.S. without any of these restrictions.
3. You can take longer trips outside the U.S.
One of the travel restrictions placed on LPRs is the length of time the are able take for a trip.
Under U.S. policy, green card holders are not allowed to travel outside of the U.S. for more than 180 days (or 6 months), without the possibility of loosing their green card upon re-entry. Under U.S. policy, a trip of such length without filing the proper paperwork is considered abandoning your green card, and you could lose your status.
However, as a U.S. citizen, you can take a trip of any length outside the U.S. without fear of loosing your U.S. passport or citizenship status.
4. You are shielded from deportation or removal
Once you become a U.S. citizen, immigration authorities cannot deport you under any circumstances, unless they denaturalize you.
The only way a U.S. citizen can be denaturalized, is if they lied or committed fraud on their green card or naturalization applications.
What that means is that once you become a U.S. citizen, no matter what happens in your future or any mistakes that you make, you cannot be sent back to your country of origin, except for the case of fraud on your application.
5. You can petition for your family members
While the area of law governing giving lawful status to your family is extremely complicated, in general, you are eligible to sponsor your spouse, parent(s), and/or child(ren).
Furthermore, the process of sponsoring a family member as a U.S. citizen is much quicker than the process for LPRs, with it being shorter by at least a year and sometimes shorter by many years.
6. Your unmarried, minor children can become citizens
When you become a U.S. citizen, your unmarried, minor (under 18 years of age) children automatically become U.S. citizens as well, if they meet certain requirements.
The requirements are as follows:
>Be under 18 years of age
>Be lawful permanent residents
>Currently residing in the U.S.
>Be in the legal and physical custody of the naturalizing parent.
7. You will have access to jobs, grants, and other government benefits reserved for U.S. citizens
Although you are eligible to work in the U.S. and receive many benefits as an LPR, there are some jobs and services that are only available to U.S. citizens.
Once you become a U.S. citizen, you will have access to more local, state, and federal jobs, as well as many grants, scholarships, and other public benefits, such as Social Security.
8. You can retain your citizenship with another country, in some cases
Contrary to popular belief, there are cases where the U.S. does not require you to relinquish all previous citizenship statuses before naturalizing.
For example, if you hold a position of nobility in anther country, the U.S. will allow you to retain your foreign citizenship when you naturalize.
Overall, as you can see, there are few reasons not to naturalize once you are eligible, so start the process now!
Note: This post was originally published on 5/26/15 and has been updated as of 10/29/19.
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Disclaimer: Nothing in relation to the enclosed information should be construed and or considered as legal advice for any individual, entity, case, or situation. The following information is prepared for advertisement use only. The information is intended ONLY to be general and should not be relied upon for any specific situation. For legal advice on your specific situation, we encourage you to consult an attorney experienced in the area of Immigration Law.