While having a green card (permanent residence) allows you to live and work in the United States indefinitely, U.S. citizenship affords you many more rights and benefits. Generally, a permanent resident can apply for citizenship 57 months after their green card is issued (33 months for spouses of U.S. citizens).
Here are five of the 10 reasons you should apply for citizenship:
1. The Right to Vote and Hold Certain Federal Jobs
Permanent residents cannot vote in federal elections. With U.S. citizenship, you can become a part of the political fabric, using your vote to influence issues that are important to you. If you really want to use your influence, you can run for political office – something you can't do as a permanent resident.
In addition to voting, U.S. citizenship will open the door to many federal job opportunities. Most federal jobs require U.S. citizenship, especially those related to energy and defense work. While most private employers cannot require citizenship, companies that contract with the federal government, especially in the areas of defense and energy, can require citizenship if a government security clearance is necessary to perform the job. In some cases, the spouse of the employee must also hold citizenship!
2. Shield from Anti-Immigrant Laws
Congress — limited only by Constitutional guarantees like free speech and equal protection — can change the rights of green card holders at any time.
For example, in the late 1990s, Congress decided to make green card holders ineligible for various federal benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). As a result, thousands of elderly and disabled immigrants were suddenly cut off from their lifeline of cash support and medical or nursing home care. Congress later softened this law, but restrictions remain. With the financial constraints of the social security system, it is very possible that permanent resident benefits could be cut.
As a U.S. citizen, you can stop worrying about laws that could take away your rights or benefits. You'll have the same basic rights as any other U.S. citizen.
3. No Removal or Deportation
Although most green card holders can live in the United States for years without problems, many become deportable and lose their green cards. This cannot happen with U.S. citizenship. However, the USCIS can take away your citizenship if it finds you lied when seeking your green card or citizenship.
4. The Right to Live Outside the U.S. or Take Long Trips
A green card holder who spends more than six months abroad, or otherwise indicates that he will live outside the U.S., can lose permanent residence. If you are a U.S. citizen, you can live outside the U.S. for as long as you want. In addition, and unlike U.S. permanent residents, you will be allowed to continue receiving any retirement or other benefits you've earned from Social Security while you're living abroad.
5. Ease of Travel to Other Countries and in Returning to the U.S.
U.S. citizens can travel to many countries without a visa while permanent residents may be required to get a visa. Also, green card holders must prove they are admissible every time they enter the United States. Otherwise, they can be barred from entry and from citizenship. As a U.S. citizen, you can avoid this and those long lines at the airport and border patrol.
In our next article, we will discuss five more reasons why citizenship may be right for you.
This article is provided as an educational service and is not legal advice. Consult with an attorney for your specific circumstances. For a comprehensive evaluation of your immigration situation and options, you are invited to call us at 214-494-8033, text us using our chat box, or complete our contact form.