If a lawful permanent resident meets certain eligibility requirements and wishes to become a U.S. citizen, they may apply for naturalization under INA §316. The lawful permanent resident, if approved, will then enjoy all the benefits and privileges of being a U.S. citizen.
Benefits of U.S. Citizenship
There are numerous benefits to becoming a U.S. Citizen, including but not limited to, the following:
(1) Voting Privileges
§ If you are making the U.S. your permanent home and want to fully participate in American democracy, becoming a citizen is vital, since only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections.
§ As a reminder, voting as a permanent resident is considered a serious offense under U.S. immigration law.
(2) Secure U.S. Residency
§ The only way to guarantee you will always have the right to remain in the U.S. is to naturalize. Permanent residents are always at risk of losing their green cards for spending too much time outside the U.S., whether for family or employment reasons.
§ If a permanent resident is ever convicted of any crime, they may face the risk of being deported, among other immigration consequences. A foreign national who has naturalized, will be able to retain their U.S. citizenship (with rare exceptions), despite the criminal issues.
(4) Government benefits
§ Lawful permanent residents generally can not receive the same public benefits as U.S. citizens. One way to ensure that this will not be a problem is to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen.
§ As a reminder, being the recipient of certain public benefits may subject a foreign national to being deported.
(5) Immigration for family members
§ U.S. citizens generally receive priority treatment to petition their family members for lawful permanent resident status. For some family members, U.S. citizens can petition for their family members as immediate relatives and thereby avoid priority-date backlogs.
§ On the other hand, lawful permanent residents cannot sponsor parents or siblings, and have a longer wait than U.S. citizens to have their spouses and/or children join them in the United States.
(6) Federal Jobs
§ Various employment opportunities with government agencies, federal contractors, etc., particularly in the energy and defense sectors, typically require U.S. citizenship.
(7) Running for office
§ Many elected positions in the U.S. require the officeholder 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 U.S., it is not clear whether green card holders residing abroad, even temporarily, can do so.
While the U.S. does not prohibit dual citizenship, some other countries do. Please check with your home country’s citizenship requirements regarding your eligibility to become a dual citizen. Some countries, such as India, require you to denounce your Indian citizenship after acquiring another country’s citizenship.
For detailed information about the eligibility requirements to apply for naturalization, please visit: Requirements of U.S. Citizenship.
For detailed information about how to apply for naturalization, please visit: Applying for Naturalization.
Revised by Nisha V. Fontaine, Esq. on December 26, 2011