In general, the term “citizenship” refers to the position or status granted to a citizen of a particular country. Thus, when a person receives U.S. citizenship, it means they have become a citizen of the United States. It also means that they will be allowed to exercise many of the same legal rights and privileges as those who were originally born and live in the United States.
For instance, a person who obtains U.S. citizenship will be granted the right to vote in U.S. elections. They will also be allowed to sponsor and petition for various immigration documents on behalf of relatives who live abroad and outside of the United States or its territories. A person who holds U.S. citizenship will be permitted to live in foreign countries for extended periods of time, without also losing the right to return to the U.S. as well.
In addition, obtaining the status of a U.S. citizen also means that a person can enjoy many of the rights and privileges that are afforded by the Constitution of the United States, and other relevant federal and state statutes.
On the other hand, becoming a U.S. citizen requires that an individual fulfill a number of important legal obligations. These include making payments towards all state and federal taxes, attending jury duty or serving on a jury if selected, and putting in a genuine effort to refrain from violating any and all laws of the United States.
One other important detail to know about U.S. citizenship is that it can be acquired in one of two ways: either through birthright or through the process of naturalization. Birthright simply means that a person was either born in the United States or that they were born overseas, but their parents are both citizens of the United States. As for naturalization, the process for this will be discussed in further detail under a different section below.
Lastly, it should be noted that becoming a U.S. citizen is not an easy process. There are many steps and legal requirements that must be accurately fulfilled first. Thus, it may be in your best interest to speak to an immigration law attorney if you are thinking about applying to become a U.S. Citizen. An attorney will be able to answer all of your questions and can assist you in completing this often complicated process.
What Are the Benefits of Citizenship?
There are many benefits to obtaining citizenship in the United States. For one, unlike persons who only attain temporary U.S. resident status, an individual who holds valid proof of U.S. citizenship cannot be deported from the country. A person who obtains U.S. citizenship status will also be granted a number of important privileges and rights, such as being allowed to register and vote in political elections held within the United States.
Some other benefits that are typically given to persons who obtain U.S. citizenship or who already are U.S. citizens may include the following:
- Being permitted to both work and live in the United States on a permanent basis;
- Having the right to leave and re-enter the country for either a short trip or an extended stay in a foreign country;
- Receiving the protection of U.S. law when traveling abroad (e.g., from a U.S. embassy or at a U.S. consulate);
- Having the privilege to invest funds in certain forms of U.S. property and real estate;
- Being allowed to sponsor or petition for some types of U.S. immigration documents on behalf of close family members that live in a location that is outside of the United States;
- Gaining the right to transfer U.S. citizenship to any of their children who are born abroad;
- Being able to run for certain positions or offices in the U.S. political process; and/or
- Having the right to collect public benefits from the government, such as Medicare, disability benefits, and/or Social Security benefits.
How Does One Become a U.S Citizen?
As previously discussed, an individual may obtain the status of a U.S. citizen when the requirements of citizenship through birthright are met. Given the fact that this article is primarily for those seeking to obtain U.S. citizenship as a foreign-born national, it is more likely that the reader will need to apply for U.S. citizenship through a process called, “naturalization.”
Briefly, a person will need to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization any time they are not originally born in the United States or are born abroad as a child whose parents are U.S. citizens. However, a foreign-born national will need to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States first before they will be allowed to apply for U.S. citizenship. There are also certain residency requirements that must be met.
In some instances, an application to obtain U.S. citizenship may be rejected or denied. In which case, a foreign-born national will either need to re-apply or to appeal the decision. An applicant will normally need to re-apply when there is an error with their application, such as if it is missing an important legal attachment.
On the other hand, an applicant may need to appeal when their application is outright rejected, like if the USCIS made a mistake in their decision. Some other steps that a foreign-born national may need to take to become a U.S. citizen can include the following:
- Submitting all requisite legal forms and any supporting documents;
- Completing the primary application form (i.e., Form N-400, Application for Naturalization);
- Studying, taking, and passing the mandatory citizenship exam;
- Attending a formal interview (if requested);
- Getting fingerprinted;
- Posing for a current photo of themselves at a location that takes passport-style pictures;
- Reciting the Oath of Allegiance; and
- Satisfying any other requirements that must be completed before going to the final citizenship ceremony.
In addition, an applicant must also demonstrate that they are at least 18 years of age or older, and that they possess good moral character. The applicant must have also been a lawful permanent resident of the United States for five years or longer, that they lived in the U.S. for at least half of those years, and that they did not receive permanent citizenship status in any other country while they were living in the United States for that period of time.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Citizenship Issues?
Applying for U.S. citizenship can often be a confusing and daunting experience. This is partly due to the fact that immigration laws and legal procedures in the United States tend to have very specific requirements with which applicants must comply. Therefore, you may want to consider hiring a local immigration lawyer if you need legal advice or assistance with an issue involving U.S. citizenship and the application process.
An experienced immigration lawyer can help you navigate the overall application process and will be able to offer valuable legal guidance at every stage along the way. Your lawyer will also be able to review all of your paperwork before you submit it and can make sure that you supply the proper types of information to avoid any delays in obtaining U.S. citizenship.
In addition, your lawyer can apprise you of your legal rights and the most current U.S. immigration laws. Finally, your lawyer will also be able to provide legal representation before a judge or during any conferences related to your citizenship matter.