Renee J. Tello Legal Blog

Friday, August 20, 2010

Four Reasons to Apply for U.S. Citizenship Now

Recently I met a gentleman who has been a permanent resident in the United States for over 20 years and has never applied for U.S. citizenship.  This meeting inspired me to write a blog entry on some the benefits of U.S. citizenship.  Generally, to qualify for U.S. citizenship through naturalization an individual must be 18 years of age or older, be of good moral character, and have maintained continuous permanent residence in the U.S. for at least five (5) years.  Green card holders who gained permanent residence through marriage, who are still married to the sponsoring spouse, may apply for citizenship after three (3) years.

Today I will address four key reasons why legal permanent residents or green card holders that qualify for U.S. citizenship, should apply for it pronto.
1.  U.S. citizens have the right to vote and green card holders do not
Permanent residence in the United States has many benefits, however, voting in local or federal elections are not one of them.  In order for immigrants to have a voice in the U.S. elections they must be U.S. citizens.   For instance recently, the new Arizona SB1070 law has propelled immigration into the forefront of the political dialogue.  However, green card holders who live in the U.S. permanently cannot effect change of this or any other laws that may affect their lives unless they take the next step and become naturalized U.S. citizens.
2.  U.S. citizens can travel without restriction
The I-551 permanent residence card (or green card) only permits green card holders to re-enter the United States after travel of less than one year.  In fact, green card holders who intend to remain outside of the U.S. for more that one year must obtain a re-entry permit prior to traveling.  The re-entry permit is a travel document that puts the immigration service on notice that, although the green card holder will be travelling outside the U.S. for more that one year, they do not intend to abandon their permanent residence status in the U.S.  Generally, U.S. citizens do not have travel restrictions and can live wherever they like without relinquishing their U.S. citizenship.
3.  A green card can be revoked for certain reasons
Once granted a green card does permit the green card holder to live and work permanently in the United States.  However, it is not an unfettered benefit, in other words it can be taken away for several reasons.  To follow are two general reasons why a green card holder may lose their permanent residence status:
a. Certain criminal convictions
These criminal convictions fall under many categories,including but not limited to, aggravated felonies, crimes associated with controlled substances, and crimes against the person i.e. assault, battery, domestic violence etc.
b. Abandoning their permanent residence status
Generally, this means that the green card holder has remained outside of the U.S. continuously for more than one year.  However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can view continuous presence outside the U.S. for less than one year as abandonment if the person lives and works abroad.
4. Depending on the laws of your home country you may be able to maintain dual citizenship
Generally, a U.S. citizen is not precluded from maintaining dual citizenship provided that the other country recognizes dual citizenship as well.   In other words if the other country does not require the person to relinquish their U.S. citizenship the U.S. will allow the person to maintain dual citizenship.  Further, the U.S. does not require a U.S. citizen to relinquish citizenship that he/she gained citizenship to another country based on their parents’ citizenship.
For information on how to apply for U.S. citizenship click here.

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