Many permanent residents consider attaining a green card to be the final step in the immigration process. Most green cards are valid for 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely. Consequently, a surprisingly large number of permanent residents renew their green cards for decades and never naturalize or, in other words, become citizens of the United States. While it is true that the green card provides a foreign national with the ability to live and work permanently in the United States, there are a multitude of benefits conferred to U.S. Citizens for which green card holders are not eligible. All permanent residents should be aware of the advantages of U.S. Citizenship and make an informed decision about naturalization.
First, U.S. Citizenship is not a status that needs to be maintained or renewed and, barring the existence of any fraud or misrepresentation in obtaining citizenship, cannot be revoked. Accordingly, U.S. Citizens can travel abroad for extended periods of time without the risk of abandoning their privileges to live and work in the U.S. A U.S. Citizen can even live permanently in another country and return to the U.S. as often or as little as they desire. A naturalized citizen can obtain a U.S. passport and avail themselves of the U.S. Government’s assistance abroad. As U.S. Citizenship cannot be revoked except for fraud or misrepresentation, U.S. citizens are immune from deportation. While it is certainly not assumed that any foreign national would willfully or intentionally violate the law, if placed in such circumstances a green card holder would be deportable whereas a U.S. Citizen would not.
Another set of important citizenship benefits are those involving the political process. A common concern among foreign nationals, including permanent residents, is that they have no input into laws that significantly impact their lives. A naturalized citizen is entitled to vote in local, state and federal elections, as well as be a candidate for and hold most political offices. On average, 630,000 people are naturalized each year and this amounts to just a small percentage of the number of qualified permanent residents. If the eligible population of permanent residents decided to naturalize, the foreign-born U.S. Citizen population would have tremendous voting power and potentially be able to exert great influence over the laws affecting citizens and foreign nationals alike. In addition, U.S. citizens are allowed to apply for and hold certain government jobs for which green card holders are generally not permitted.
Lastly, U.S. Citizens are able to sponsor family members for immigration to the U.S. and, under certain circumstances, have the ability to pass citizenship along to their foreign-born minor children. The immediate family members of U.S. Citizens are not subject to the same visa quotas as the family members of lawful permanent residents, making for faster processing times for relatives of U.S. Citizens. Furthermore, U.S. Citizens can sponsor a greater number of family members for immigration than permanent residents. Overall, these benefits are of monumental importance when trying to keep families together.
It would behoove any permanent resident considering citizenship to apply at their earliest opportunity, as the filing fees and naturalization application process continues to become more cumbersome over time. Ultimately, the benefits of U.S. Citizenship greatly outweigh the presumed inconveniences of the application process. Eligible permanent residents should be encouraged to complete the final step in the immigration process — U.S. Citizenship. If not for themselves and their family members, then for all of the foreign nationals who do not currently have a political voice in the U.S.