The New Year is a time to set goals to improve yourself and your quality of life. There’s an important opportunity for lawful permanent residents to do just that; through U.S. citizenship. Becoming a citizen opens the door to many new opportunities that were previously unavailable to green card holders. This New Year resolve to become a U.S. citizen and consider these benefits:
1. The Right to Vote
LPRs can vote in local and state elections, but they cannot cast a ballot in federal elections. You live, work and pay taxes in the U.S., and voting in federal elections for leaders who best represent you, your family and your community is important. The earlier in the year you apply for citizenship, the more likely you are to complete the process in time to register to vote in the 2016 presidential election.
2. Citizenship for your children
Children under the age of 18 who are lawful permanent residents automatically become citizens when their parents naturalize. Since individuals cannot apply to naturalize until they turn 18, this type of derivative citizenship is a gift from parents to children.
3. Family reunification
Family members can become separated for long periods of time through the immigration process. LPRs can file petitions only for their spouses, minor children and unmarried adult sons and daughters. U.S. citizens can petition for additional family members such as parents, siblings and married adult sons and daughters.
4. Eligibility for government jobs
Some jobs are available only to U.S. citizens, such as those in the federal government. Additionally, naturalized citizens on average do better economically than noncitizens. As a group they earn between 50 and 70 percent more than noncitizens, have higher employment rates and are less likely to live below the poverty line. New citizens could also see individual earnings increases of 8 to 11 percent, directly tied to more job preparation, better employment matches and a greater ability to switch jobs.
6. Freedom to travel
LPRs’ travel time during a given year is restricted. U.S. citizens have the freedom to travel without time constraints or restrictions. They also have the opportunity to seek the help and protection of U.S. embassies and consulates abroad in the event of a personal crisis or civil unrest. This ease of travel opens the door for more opportunities to visit family members abroad, travel abroad for longer periods of time and come to and from the U.S. with much greater ease.
6. Protection from deportation
Becoming a U.S. citizen protects you and your children from deportation. As a lawful permanent resident, certain criminal convictions could make you deportable, and some actions put LPRs at risk for permanent consequences such as deportation.
Many immigrants feel a strong connection to their country of origin. But U.S. citizenship does not mean losing your heritage. In fact, many countries even allow dual citizenship so that you can maintain your status both in your birth country and in the U.S.
New Americans Campaign partners across the country are helping LPRs achieve their dream of citizenship. If you’ve resolved to become a U.S. citizen in 2016, schedule an appointment with one of our partners or attend a workshop for help to complete your application.