Some people live out their lives in the United States as permanent residents and never apply for citizenship. On the other hand, many people want to apply for citizenship as soon as they possibly can. While this is a personal choice, and there is no obligation to become a citizen, the following are some reasons why you may want to apply when you first qualify.
Benefits of Citizenship
U.S. citizens have a number of rights and protections that non-citizens do not have, such as:
- The right to vote in public elections
- The ability to run for public office
- Eligibility for federal benefits
- Eligibility for federal employment
- The ability to travel internationally for long periods of time
- Protection from deportation
- The ability to sponsor family members for green cards
- The right to certain tax exemptions
- Eligibility for certain grants, scholarships, in-state tuition rates, and other government awards
- Having a U.S. passport and the support of consulates and embassies abroad
In many situations, you can enjoy the benefits of dual citizenship and become a U.S. citizen without having to give up your foreign citizenship.
You CAN lose your Green Card
Your permanent resident status is not always permanent, in fact you can actually lose your status. Here a couple of ways in which this can happen:
Committing Certain Crimes
The Immigration and Nationality Act section 237 describes a list of criminal and other grounds under which you may be ordered removed from the United States. If you have been found to commit one of those grounds, you might be placed in removable proceedings and will lose your permanent resident status if an immigration judge issues a final removal order against you.
These criminal grounds do not only include committing extremely serious crimes. In fact, you may be found deportable even if you were not sentenced to any jail time or if you commit non-violent crimes such as: document/tax fraud, personal use of controlled substance, claiming to be a U.S citizen and more. These crimes do not “disappear” for immigration purposes even if you later were able to “expunge” or “clean your record” after rehabilitation.
Abandoning Permanent Resident Status
You may also lose your permanent resident status by intentionally abandoning it. You may be found to have abandoned your status if you:
- Move to another country, intending to live there permanently.
- Remain outside of the United States for an extended period of time
- Fail to file income tax returns while living outside of the United States for any period.
- Declare yourself a “nonimmigrant” on your U.S. tax returns.
The Process Takes Time
Currently the USCIS processing times for naturalization are 12.5-15.5 months, so you may want to get the process started as soon as you possibly can. You can apply for citizenship after being a permanent resident for three (if applying based on marriage to a U.S citizen ) or five years. We recommend to start gathering all necessary documents 6 months prior to the 3/5 year mark as a permanent resident.
Contact an Immigration Lawyer in Orange County for More Information. Brudner Law assists many people with obtaining U.S. citizenship and all the benefits that come with it. Call 714.794.9366 or contact us online to speak with an Orange County immigration attorney today.