When most people think of the benefits of being a US Citizen, the right to vote often comes to mind. But there are several advantages to citizenship that extend far beyond electing the next governor or President. Lawful permanent residents who are "sitting on the fence" ought to consider the following.
Legal protection for yourself-you can never be deported
If a permanent resident is convicted of illegal criminal activity, the immigration consequences could be far more severe than the actual criminal punishment. For example, if a permanent resident is accused of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, especially a large quanitity, he or she is in jeopardy of not only being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) but worse, of being deported upon conviction. On the other hand, if that same defendant has already naturalized, and hence become an American Citizen, he or she would not be burdened with deciphering the collateral immigration consequences of a potential conviction. Practically speaking, he or she might not feel additional pressure to take a plea that he or she is not comfortable with just to avoid the spectre of deportation when he or she would rather go to trial and force the State to prove their guikt beyond a reasonable doubt. The presumption of innocence is something guaranteed by our federal and state constitutions, but sadly, only US citizens accused of criminal activity are able to fully avail themselves of it. The fact of the matter is that many lawful permanent residents and aliens are pressured to plead guilty to crimes which they may not in fact be guilty of because the consequences of going to trial and losing trigger harsher immigration consequences such as removal.
Legal protection for your minor lawful permanent resident children
Just as becoming a U.S. Citizen protects you from deportation, it also potentially insulates your lawful permanent resident minor children. If you have any resident alien children under the age of eighteen and they are in your legal and physical custody, they may automatically derive their citizenship through you if you naturalize before they turn eighteen under The Child Citizenship Act of 2000. Your children will become citizens by operation of law and by virtue of that, will enjoy the same privileges and immunities of other United States Citizens.
One of the greatest tragedies that face non-citizen families is that of separation, as the children and parents of permanent residents can spend years separated from their loved ones. This is in large part because there are numerical limitations on who can immigrate to the United States. Additionally, only certain preference relative categories are in place. For example, married children over the age of 21 of lawful permanent residents are not eligible to immigrate through their parents because there is no such category. US Citizens, however, enjoy much more freedom in sponsoring their relatives. Spouses and children under the age of 21 are considered "immediate relatives" and exempt from the preference categories and their numerical limitations. Additionally, US Citizens may file for their siblings as well as married children over the age of 21.
More importantly, only immediate relatives of US Citizens are eligible to file for provisional waivers of the unlawful presence bar. This is a distinction that the general public and even attorneys not experienced in immigration law realize.
International Travel--Freedom to travel
When a permanent resident stays outside of the United States for 180 days or longer, he or she potentially raises a rebuttable presumption that he/she has broken the continuity of his/her residence here. Worse, if there are many protracted trips of this duration, or if it is apparent that the resident alien is spending more time outside the US than inside, he or she may be accused of altogether abandoning his/her permanent residence. US Citizens, on the other hand, may travel freely without restriction or fear of losing their status through extended absences abroad. US Citizens may additionally travel to many countries without the necessity of applying for a visa (for countries that are a part of the Visa Waiver program).
Increased job prospects
This is an advantage that most people do not think about when considering whether to apply for citizenship. Many federal jobs, in fact, require U.S. citizenship. And this is not a small number, as the federal government employs 2,723,000 Americans. In addition, if you ever have political aspirations to run for office, you would want to look into citizenship.
These are only some of the benefits of American citizenship. On the other hand, if you are not comfortable with the responsibilities of citizenship, such as being called to serve jury duty, or do not wish to renounce allegiance to any other country, the issue requires further deliberation.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the "Subscribe To This Blog's Feed" button on the right. It is important to understand that the above is only general information. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the "Case Evaluation" box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.