October 15, 2007

Why Become a U.S. Citizen?

This is a question that permanent residents often ask. Green Card holders, otherwise known as permanent residents, in this country receive most of the rights of U.S. Citizens. In the day-to-day life of permanent residents, there are not too many differences than with their citizen counterparts. So, why should one bother to go through the Citizenship process? Here are 10 reasons that stand out:

1. Patriotism and Voting: If you want to make the United States your permanent home and want to fully participate in American democracy, becoming a U.S. Citizen is vital. Only U.S. Citizens can vote in federal elections.

2. Retaining Residency: The only way to guarantee that you will always have the right to remain in the United States is to naturalize and become a Citizen. Many individuals do not realize that permanent residents are always at risk of losing their green cards for spending too much time outside of the United States or for certain criminal offenses.

3. Deportation: If a permanent resident is ever convicted of a crime, and not necessarily a very serious crime, there is always a risk of being deported and losing one’s residency. After becoming a citizen, with very rare exceptions, you retain your citizenship even if you run into criminal problems.

4. Government Benefits: Some permanent residents cannot receive the same public benefits as citizens. There has been increasing talk of making more public benefits available only to citizens. The only way to ensure that this will not be a problem, now or in the future, is to naturalize.

5. Immigration for Family Members: U.S. Citizens generally receive priority treatment to bring in family members. In many cases, citizens can sponsor family members without waiting in a very long queue for a visa to become available. Green card holders cannot sponsor parents or siblings and the wait for children and spouses is much longer than that for citizens.

6. Federal Jobs: Certain types of jobs with government agencies require U.S. Citizenship. This is particularly true for jobs in the energy and defense sectors.

7. Running for Office: Many elected positions in this country require the office holder to be a U.S. Citizen.

8. Tax Consequences: U.S. Citizens and permanent residents are not always treated the same for tax purposes. This is particularly true for estate taxes.

9. Federal Grants: Many federal grants are available only to U.S. Citizen applicants.

10. Political Contributions: While green card holders can legally donate money to campaigns if they are residing in the United States, it is not clear wither green card holders residing abroad, even temporarily, can do so.

By Michelle Richart