Jesse J. Bañuelos, a Los Angeles Immigration Attorney
BENEFITS OF US CITIZENSHIP
1. The right to vote: US citizens have the right to vote for elected officials at the federal, state and local levels who shape the policy of the government. Your vote is your voice. If you are not a citizen, you can’t vote, and if you can’t vote, your voice can’t count. Make your voice count, if you are eligible to do it, become a citizen;
2. You can become a US citizen without giving up citizenship of your native country: many countries like Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, etc., recognize “dual citizenship” which permits naturalized US citizens to maintain their citizenship of birth;
3. Citizens can live in any country, for as long as they want: US citizens can leave the US and live in any other country for as long as they want, yet still return to the US at any time. The status of legal permanent residents can be revoked if they stay out of the country for six months or more;
4. Citizens cannot be deported: citizens can never be deported. However, green card holders are subject to deportation/removal if they are ever convicted of a crime, even a minor one, or if they have a negative encounter with the INS/DHS;
5. Citizens can bring more relatives from abroad, more quickly: US citizens can petition for a wider variety of family members than legal permanent residents to come to the US as legal permanent residents, and family members of US citizens are given priority and preference over those of legal permanent residents;
6. Citizens can retire abroad with full social security benefits: citizens who retire abroad get all their social security benefits. Green card holders only get half of the benefits they earned;
7. Citizens have more job opportunities: the US Government is one of the largest employers in the world. However, most jobs with federal agencies require US citizenship; and
8. Children born abroad to US citizens are US citizens: in most cases, children born abroad to US citizens are automatically US citizens.
REQUIREMENTS THAT MUST BE MET TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR US CITIZENSHIP
1. Must be living in the US, except under certain circumstances;
2. Must have been a green card holder for at least 5 years, or at least three years, if you obtained your green card through a marriage to a US citizen;
3. Must be able to read, write and speak ordinary English. Those over 50 years old who have been green card holders for at least 20 years, or those who are over 55 years old and who have been green card holders for at least 15 years, do not need to meet the English language requirement and can take the citizenship examination in their own language;
4. Must have a basic understanding of the fundamentals of US history and government;
5. Must have good moral character. Good moral character is demonstrated by being a responsible member of your community, such as by avoiding run-ins with the law, by filing yearly income tax returns and paying taxes (if you owe them), by keeping up with child support obligations (if you have them), etc.; and
6. Applicants should be at least 18 years of age.
WARNING: If a green card holder is convicted of a crime or if he has any encounters with the INS/DHS (for alien smuggling, for example), for that conviction or that encounter the INS/DHS could place him in deportation/removal proceedings. Because those proceedings could end with the issuance of an expulsion order against the green card holder which could result in permanent banishment from the US, if you believe that you qualify for US citizenship, and you wish to apply for it, but you have had runs-ins with the law or with the INS/DHS as a green card holder, before you apply, it’s extremely important that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney, such as Mr. Bañuelos. Because he is hardworking and tenacious, Mr. Bañuelos has been successfully resolving difficult immigration problems, and has been winning difficult deportation and removal cases for over 20 years .