Citizenship offers substantially more benefits than permanent residency. Here are a few of the many reasons to naturalize:
Risk of abandonment
Permanent residents can travel internationally, but must be cautious about spending too much time outside of the U.S. If you spend a year outside of the U.S., you will be presumed to have abandoned your permanent residency, and you risk being placed in removal proceedings and possibly deported.
Even those permanent residents who have spent less than a year outside the U.S. might be accused of abandoning residency. Unfortunately, there is no specific amount of time at which permanent residency is considered “abandoned.” Instead, the government will examine the ties you maintained in the U.S. during your absence, the length and purpose of your trip, your job, and whether you properly filed U.S. income taxes.
Obtaining a reentry permit before departing the U.S. will allow you to extend your time outside of the U.S., but does not guarantee that lengthy trips will not result in a finding of abandonment.
Citizens are not subject to any durational limitations on international travel. Once you become a citizen, you are free to travel as often and for as long as you like.
Permanent residents who commit a crime of moral turpitude or an aggravated felony are at high risk of losing their permanent resident status and being deported. While the terms “crime of moral turpitude” and “aggravated felony” sound severe, many low-level crimes are encompassed under these definitions.
Citizens that commit criminal acts must face the consequences of their actions in a court of law; however, they are free from deportation.
Petition to bring family members to the U.S.
Permanent residents can petition to bring a variety of family members to the U.S., but the waiting time for visas is often excruciatingly long. Additionally, some petitions and waivers are only available to family members of U.S. citizens.
Becoming a citizen may allow you to bring a loved one to the U.S. who otherwise would not be granted a visa.
Renewal of green card
Green cards are issued for ten years and permanent residents must apply to renew them. The renewal process costs money, takes time, and requires the government to run a background check on you.
Likewise, the naturalization process costs money, takes time, and requires the government to run a background check on you; once you become a citizen, you never have to renew or apply for an immigration benefit ever again.
Voting and running for office
Citizens have the wonderful privilege of voting for their elected officials. For those who love politics, citizens can run for a wide variety of elected positions in local and national government.
What about the English and history exams?
Many permanent residents are hesitant to naturalize because of the English language requirement and U.S. history examination. These concerns should not stop anyone from seeking to naturalize! Some permanent residents who have been in the U.S. for a substantial period of time may be eligible to waive the English or history requirement. Additionally, a waiver is available for those who are unable to learn English. Lastly, there are numerous free and low-cost classes available throughout the state of Minnesota to help permanent residents learn the English language and prepare for the history exam.
If you are a permanent resident and want to learn more about your options to naturalize, Wilson Law Group is happy to meet with you for a free consultation.