Many foreign nationals focus largely on becoming United States permanent residents because they believe that permanent residency solves many of the issues they have as non-residents. While becoming a permanent resident is an achievable goal for many immigrants, and does indeed resolve a number of non-resident limitations, there are still a number of restrictions in place that are not applicable to U.S. citizens.

For most immigrants, once they have maintained permanent residency for at least five (5) years – with continuous stay for at least thirty months or two and a half years – they are eligible to submit their Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. This form includes twenty (20) pages of questions, with another eighteen (18) pages of instructions and specifications and can be understandably intimidating to a potential applicant. While seemingly daunting, Form N-400 is a rather straightforward application and, if your case is not complicated, can be completed without legal assistance. If you are at all confused or unsure of how to complete the petition, it is advisable to seek the advice of qualified immigration lawyers in order to ensure that your petition is filled out correctly. This can help to prevent petition approval delays or petition denial due to an improperly completed application.

If you are still debating whether or not you should apply for your United States citizenship, the benefits of becoming an American citizen may sway you in making the commitment towards applying. American citizens are allowed a wide range of privileges that non-citizens and permanent residents do not have access to.

Voting Rights

Permanent residents are not legally allowed to vote for any Federal election in the United States and most states restrict non-citizen voting in all public office elections. Voting is a privilege in any country that is reserved for those who are, through birth or naturalization, citizens of that country – largely due to the fact that electing government officials is a huge responsibility. The ability to elect mayors, governors, members of the House and Senate, and the President of the United States can be a huge motivation for permanent residents that are interested in politics or desire the right to vote.

Removal of Deportation Fear

Certain criminal activities and convictions can make a lawful permanent resident eligible for deportation, no matter how long they have been a permanent resident or where they are in their citizenship journey. As a United States citizen, deportation is not a possibility and loss of citizenship can only occur under very rare circumstances, those of which most naturalized citizens will never encounter. The fear of deportation is one that is not easily soothed, and the removal of this fear can be a deciding factor for many that are contemplating applying for their citizenship.

Applying for Family Members

One of the perks of permanent residency is the ability to petition for certain family members for them to also obtain permanent resident status. Legal permanent residents can apply for permanent residency for their spouses and children under eighteen years of age along with any unmarried adult children. Citizens can petition for parents, siblings and married adult children, along with the above-mentioned family members, which enables many naturalized citizens to reunite their families with legal status in the United States.

Becoming a United States citizen has many benefits and privileges that other lawful statuses do not carry. Stay tuned for part two of this series, exploring other citizenship benefits such as freedom to travel and access to public benefits.