Becoming a U.S. citizen isn't an overnight process. There are a number of steps involved, and determining your eligibility is at the top of the list, as is seeking legal counsel. If you're wondering whether obtaining citizenship is worth the process, it's important to examine the legal benefits and compare them with the cost of passing up the opportunity. Here are just some of the things you stand to gain if you decide to become a U.S. citizen.
1. Legally vote. If you're here undocumented or without a green card, you cannot vote in local, state, or federal elections. But once you gain citizenship, you are automatically granted the right to vote in all three. If you hold a green card, you can vote in local and state elections, but not federal.
2. Travel freely. As a U.S. citizen, you can obtain a U.S. Passport and travel freely, stay gone as long as you like, and return to the U.S. with no issues.
Those who have a green card can travel as well, but if you're gone for more than two years, you could lose your privileges. Also, if you decide to visit another country, and it's determined that your intent is to move there, you may also lose your green card.
3. Petition your family to join you. As a U.S. citizen, you have the right to petition for your immigrant family (spouse, parents, siblings, and children) to join you in America. You can do this by requesting either an immigrant visa or a green card, both of which allow for permanent residency.
If you have a green card, you can petition for an immigrant visa for children and spouses only, and their stay will be limited.
If you're an undocumented immigrant, you can't petition for anyone to join you.
4. Avoid deportation. Obviously, if you're an undocumented immigrant, you run the risk of being arrested and deported. But this is also true of those who are here legally with a green card or visa. If you fail to abide by the terms of your visa, you don't notify the USCIS of a change of address within 10 days, you commit certain crimes, or you begin receiving public assistance, you may find yourself being sent back to your home country.
As a U.S. citizen, you are immune to all of the above. Your place in this country is just as solid as it would be if you were born here.
5. Grant citizenship to children. A person born in the United States is considered a U.S citizen. But what if you're out of the country when your baby is born? As a U.S. citizen, you have the right to register your child's birth certificate in the U.S., granting them citizenship as well.
6. Receive education assistance. If you're an undocumented immigrant, you may have trouble attending certain colleges and universities if they require proof of citizenship to apply. But even if you do get accepted, you won't have access to federal assistance like loans, grants, and scholarships. U.S. citizens do have access to these programs and can legally apply for financial aid.
7. Gain access to government benefits. If you are a U.S. citizen, you can apply for government assistance, and you are eligible to receive many public benefits that are not available to undocumented immigrants or green card holders.
If you have permanent residency, you are eligible for some programs, but eligibility is determined by a number of factors, such as when you obtained your permanent resident status, how much you have worked, and the county or state you reside in.
8. Get a federal job. Certain jobs in the United States are only available to U.S. citizens, and they come with a plethora of benefits. Federal jobs are varied but include postal worker, FBI agent, court clerk, and airport screener, among others.
To learn more about immigration law, check out websites like http://www.kasselandkassel.com.
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