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If you are a lawful permanent resident (LPR) debating whether to apply for U.S. citizenship, note the following benefits:
The right to vote in elections, as well as the right to being elected to office and to apply for certain federal jobs and benefits.
The right to travel abroad without any residency requirements in the U.S.
The right to be accused and even convicted of crimes without fear of deportation or removal from the U.S.
The right to certain federal grants and scholarships as well as higher estate tax exemptions.
The U.S. allows you to become a citizen without having to renounce your current citizenship or forfeit your current passport. In addition to the above benefits, only U.S. citizens can sponsor parents and siblings for Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status (commonly known as Green Card) whereas LPR's may sponsor neither their parents nor siblings for a green card. Additional information about family sponsorship categories is here.
A person may become a U.S. citizen through several means:
- Birth in the U.S.; or
- Acquisition at Birth. A child born outside the U.S. where one or both parents are U.S. citizens may acquire U.S. citizenship at birth;
- Derivation through naturalization of parents. A child born outside the U.S. may become a citizen by virtue of the parents’ naturalization.
- Naturalization Application. An individual must meet the following criteria:
- 18 years or older.
- Permanent resident for five years. However, if a person is married to a U.S. citizen, the individual may be eligible for naturalization in three years if: i) the couple has been married for 3 years; ii) the spouse was a citizen during that entire period; and iii) the couple is living in marital unity. The USCIS will accept a naturalization application filed up to 90 days prior to the 5 or 3 year requirements specified above. The applicant must have resided within a state or district for at least 90 days prior to filing the naturalization application.
- Reside for a minimum of three months in the state where the application is filed.
- Physically present in the U.S. for at least one-half of the five years (one-half of three if spouse is a citizen).
- Resided "continuously" within the U.S. from the date the petition was filed to the time of admission to citizenship. Note: short trips abroad are OK, esp. if the trips are less than 180 days.
- Not be absent from the U.S. for a continuous period of more than one year during the periods for which continuous residence is required. Exceptions--military service abroad and employees posted abroad who have approval to preserve residency.
- Be a person of good moral character (no criminal record or "moral turpitude" issues).
- Elementary knowledge of English (read, write, speak). Exceptions--persons over fifty, residing in the US for 20 years as a permanent resident; and persons over 55, residing in the U.S. for 15 years as a permanent resident.
- Knowledge of the fundamentals of U.S. government and history.
Please contact our law firm to discuss eligibility for naturalization.
[Note: Please consult with an attorney specializing in Immigration & Nationality law for professional advice in specific situations.]