Benefits of obtaining United States citizenship
- Citizens have full rights and protections under the United States Constitution. Non-citizens, even lawful permanent residents with long term residence in the United States, may face the loss of their status under certain circumstances as a result of changes in immigration law.
- U.S. citizens are able to sponsor immediate relatives (spouses, unmarried minor children and parents) for Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status without a long wait for a visa to become available. The may also sponsor these other relatives, subject to visa availability:
- unmarried adult sons and daughters;
- married sons and daughters; and,
- brothers and sisters.
- Possession of a United States passport.
- Ability to travel, and even live, abroad without fear of jeopardizing LPR status.
- Citizens may not be removed, or deported, from the United States. They are also able to re-enter the United States easily without being required to establish admissibility each time.
- Ability to vote and fully participate in the U.S. electoral process.
- Only U.S. citizens are able to hold elected public office.
- Eligibility for many government-related jobs is restricted to citizens only.
- Eligibility for public benefits from which non-citizens, including LPRs, may be excluded.
- Receipt of Social Security benefits worldwide without concern over reciprocity agreements.
- Entitlement to substantial deductions on U.S. estate tax.
- No address change or other CIS reporting requirements.
- Citizens are always eligible for Social Security and Medicare benefits, which many non-citizens may not be.
Since the enactment of the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA), Congress has passed numerous laws conferring citizenship on particular groups of individuals. With each designation, Congress determined that there were specified conditions that must be met in order for individuals to qualify. These conditions generally relate to the individual’s date of birth and the birth, citizenship, and length of residency in the United States of the individual’s parents.
Due to the numerous changes to these laws over the years, determining whether a particular individual meets the requirements for automatic or derivative citizenship is often a complex legal issue that should be discussed with an attorney.
If you believe that you may qualify based on the following or other factors, you should consult one of our immigration lawyers to determine whether you are a U.S. citizen and what will be involved in proving your claim.
- Birth in the United States. Nearly all children born in the United States are U.S. citizens.
- Birth abroad to U.S. citizen parents. Many children born to United States citizens abroad are U.S. citizens.
- Naturalization of parents. Many children whose parents have become naturalized U.S. citizens are also United States citizens.
- Dependent of Individuals Serving in the Armed Forces. Some dependents of individuals who have served in the U.S. armed forces may be U.S. citizens.
If you are the child of a U.S. citizen you may wish to explore your citizenship options with one of our immigration attorneys, even if you are not eligible for automatic or derivative citizenship.
With the passage of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, the Congress established streamlined criteria for children born outside the United States to a U.S. citizen, or those who are adopted by U.S. citizens, to acquire U.S. citizenship following a lawful entry for permanent residence. This law benefits many children whose parents become naturalized U.S. citizens.
Many people obtain U.S. citizenship through the process of naturalization. While naturalization is typically fairly straightforward, most applicants will benefit from the advice of an immigration attorney. Some eligibility criteria, and problem areas, are summarized below. This list is not exhaustive and it is recommended that you consult our attorneys if you have questions or concerns about your specific situation.
- 1. Must be a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States.
- Minimum age of 18 years. However, many children may become automatic citizens upon naturalization of their parents. See information regarding Child Citizenship Act above.
- Five-years of continuous residence after becoming a lawful permanent resident. This time period may be reduced to three-years for individuals who obtain their lawful permanent residence based on marriage to a U.S. citizen. This three-year benefit may also be available for certain individuals who obtained their LPR status as a result of battery or extreme cruelty by a spouse or parent.
- Physical presence in the United States for half of the five-year, or three-year, period preceding the filing of the Application for Naturalization.
- Three months of physical presence in the State or U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS) district where the application will be filed.
- Must have resided continuously in the United States from the time the application is filed up to the time of admission for citizenship.
- Must not be absent from the United States for a continuous period of one year. There are certain exceptions to this rule.
- Good moral character throughout the preceding five-year, or three-year, period.
- Acceptance of the principles of the U.S. Constitution.
- Basic English language skills and understanding of United States history and civics.
Bars to Naturalization
- Advocacy for, affiliation with, or membership in any organization opposed to organized government (e.g. anarchists).
- Membership or affiliation with the Communist Party or any other totalitarian party.
- Advocacy or affiliation with any organization that sanctions the use of force or violence against the Government.
- Desertion from U.S. military forces or claimed exemption from service due to alienage.
- Commission of any aggravated felony and certain other crimes, even those that may be minor under State criminal laws.
- Final removal or deportation orders; or current removal proceedings pending. This may be waived for active members of the U.S. military.
Soon after you have filed your application (N-400), the CIS will notify you of the date and time of your biometrics (fingerprint and digital photograph) appointment. They will also contact you within several months regarding the date, time and place of your naturalization interview. Following successful completion of the naturalization interview, you will be scheduled for a swearing in ceremony, at which time you will take the oath of citizenship, surrender your permanent resident card and receive your Certificate of Naturalization.
It is often possible to be a citizen of more than one country. Many people hold dual, or even triple, citizenship. If you are interested in learning more about dual citizenship, it is a good idea to consult one of our experienced immigration attorneys to fully discuss your options.