A few weeks ago, The New York Times featured an article discussing Green Card holders who are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship, but who for various reasons lack a desire to naturalize.  The article, entitled “Making Choice to Halt at Door of Citizenship,” is based on numerous interviews with immigrants in the U.S. as well as USCIS data.  According to the article, roughly 8.8 million U.S. permanent residents are currently eligible to become citizens, but nearly half of them may never naturalize.  The Times writes:

According to some estimates, about 40 percent of all people who hold green cards, the gateway to citizenship, do not naturalize.

Of those, many may want to apply but are deterred by a variety of reasons, including the $680 application fee or the requirement that most applicants must prove they can read, write and speak basic English, immigrants’ advocates said. Some countries — including Japan, China and Iran — generally do not permit their citizens to acquire a second nationality, forcing a difficult choice.

But alongside those potential applicants, there is a vast population of green card holders who have everything they need to naturalize, including the language skills, money, sufficient time of residence in the United States, permission from their native countries and a clean criminal record. All they lack is the desire.

They simply do not want it — or want it enough — and cite various reasons, including an overriding patriotism for their native country, disaffection for the policies of the United States government, even simple fecklessness.

Of course, U.S. citizenship will not be appealing to everyone, and even some people who will reside permanently in the United States for the rest of their lives may not want it.  Nevertheless, I think it’s important to highlight that citizenship brings a number of important benefits and protections:

  • Voting.  The right to participate in federal elections is restricted to U.S. citizens.  A majority of states don’t allow anyone but citizens to participate in non-federal elections, either.
  • Bringing family members to the United States. It is much easier for U.S. citizens to petition and bring their family members to the U.S. permanently than it is for Green Card holders to do so.
  • Obtaining citizenship for children born abroad.  In most cases, a child born abroad to a U.S. citizen is automatically a U.S. citizen, so having citizenship can ensure that your children will be American citizens even if they are born elsewhere.
  • Traveling with a U.S. passport.
  A U.S. passport allows you to travel to most countries without going through the cumbersome visa procedures that citizens of other countries have to face.  It also qualifies you to receive the assistance and protection of the U.S. government when you are abroad.
  • Being eligible for federal government jobs.  Becoming a U.S. citizen opens the door to many jobs in federal government, which in most cases are restricted to citizens only.
  • Becoming an elected official.  Many elected positions in the United States require U.S. citizenship.
  • Protections in case of legal proceedings.  A U.S. citizen cannot be deported and enjoys fuller rights and protection under the U.S. Constitution than a permanent resident.

The list of these benefits is not exhaustive.  So, while the decision to become a citizen should not be made lightly, naturalization is a path that deserves serious consideration by any Green Card holder living permanently in the United States.

Should you have any questions or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact me by submitting the form or by calling me at (917) 426-8227.