Becoming a legal permanent resident is the first step for an immigrant to live and work permanently in the United States. Naturalization is the process where a person voluntarily applies to become a permanent US citizen. The process to become a permanent United States citizen is overseen by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In most cases, someone seeking citizenship must be at least 18 years old and have been a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR, or green card holder) in the United States for five years or more. Someone can become a citizen of the United States, called naturalization, three ways:
There are many practical benefits of being a U.S. citizen. United States citizens are entitled to rights and privileges that Legal Permanent Residents – green card holders – do not have. Below are 10 reasons to become a United States citizen:
1. If a green card holder commits a crime, their legal permanent resident status can then be revoked and they can be deported. A naturalized citizen is entitled to the same rights as a natural-born citizen, and cannot be deported.
2. U.S. citizens can vote in local and federal elections.
3. Citizens get priority to sponsor family members to permanently move to the United States.
4. A child born abroad to a U.S. citizen may automatically obtain U.S. citizenship.
5. Citizens are eligible for Federal jobs that LPRs cannot get.
6. A U.S. passport and the ability to contact the U.S. Embassy provide some protection during international travel.
7. Certain educational scholarships are only available to U.S. citizens.
8. Citizenship almost eliminates the risk of deportation. Unless someone committed fraud during his or her immigration proceedings, citizenship is permanent. Once a person becomes a citizen, he or she is typically immune from deportation.
9. Citizens are permitted to leave the country for long periods of time, unlike green card holders.
10. It costs less to become a U.S. citizen than to remain a green card holder. Permanent residents must renew their green card every 10 years and pay applicable fees.
Note: Naturalization is not the best solution for some permanent residents. When a person applies for citizenship, a criminal background check will be conducted and their immigration file will be reopened for review. If someone has a criminal background or a history of fraud or misrepresentation, he or she should consult with an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that naturalization is the best route to take.
You are not required to hire an attorney to manage your citizenship application. However, immigration law is complicated, confusing and – especially now – changing rapidly. The advice and guidance of an experienced immigration lawyer can save you time, money and stress – and make the difference in whether your citizenship application is approved or denied.
1. Wait Times Have Doubled
The New York Times reports that wait times for citizenship applications have doubled in the past 2 years, and is now from 10 to 31 months, depending on where you live and how long that field office’s backlog, due to tightened requirements and screening requirements implemented by the Trump administration.
2. More Naturalization Applications Are Being Denied
97,000 naturalization applications were denied in 2019: nearly twice the amount of green card applications that were denied, and there are close to 650,000 pending naturalization applications nationwide.
3. Minor Issues Can Derail An Application
Minor or accidental issues can be a potential roadblock to the naturalization process but are taken extremely seriously by USCIS, such as claiming to be a United States citizen by registering to vote.
An experienced immigration lawyer knows and understands current immigration laws and can assist you with your naturalization application by helping you spot potential roadblocks in your background that can derail your application. Experienced immigration attorneys can save you money, time and stress and make sure your citizenship application has all the required documents and that the process is done correctly the first time, and accompany you to your immigration interview. If USCIS denies your application or there is a misunderstanding, your lawyer can help clarify and resolve the miscommunication.
The skilled immigration lawyers at Godoy Law Office can answer any questions about immigration and guide you through every step of the citizenship process. Reach out to our office today to learn more about American citizenship.