Are you a green card holder who desires to gain citizenship in the United States, but worried about maintaining citizenship in your country of origin? The Immigration and Nationality Act was enacted in 1952, and has been revised and amended countless times since then. It is a collection of all the laws and statutes that set the precedence for lawful, legal residence in the United States, as well as citizenship. The concept of “dual citizenship” is actually not acknowledged within these laws; however, the United States government does not require you to renounce citizenship in your country of origin to become a citizen of the U.S. Therefore, you are still technically able to obtain “dual” citizenship.
If you’ve been a lawful, legal resident for five years or longer, you may be eligible to apply for citizenship in the U.S. while remaining a citizen of your home country. If you’re struggling with whether or not to pursue American citizenship, here are some benefits that are worth considering:
- Personal Freedom For Yourself And Your Family
As a green card holder, though you have legal residence in the U.S., there are still some rights and freedoms that are not available to you or your children (if you have them). You are not able to vote, hold public office, obtain a government job, have extended absences from the country, or sponsor some extended family members who are trying to obtain their own green cards. By gaining citizenship in the U.S., all of these opportunities would be open to you. As a citizen, you could then help to sponsor some of your extended relatives who are looking to begin their own immigration journey to the United States.
Your children could also enjoy the benefits of citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act (CCA) of 2001. As long as your child is under 18, is also a lawful, legal resident, and you have shared or sole legal custody of them, they will automatically become citizens if one or both parents become naturalized citizens. Your children would then be able to hold dual citizenship in the same way you would be able to.
- Travel Freedom For Yourself And Your Family
While green card holders are able to easily travel in and out of the United States, there are restrictions on how long their absence may extend. Permanent residents may not remain abroad for longer than one year, or their status will be revoked. You will not only be unable to enter the United States, but this may jeopardize any chance of being able to gain permanent resident status again. Even if you do not intend to remain out of the country for longer than a year, complications may arise in the country you are traveling to which prevent you from leaving. If you are not willing to chance your permanent residency status in the U.S., but would like to visit your country of origin for extended periods, then it is worth gaining citizenship of the United States.
Travel privileges may also be important to consider if you predict that you may become persecuted in your home country for your political beliefs, religious beliefs, or other factors of your identity. Having citizenship in the United States means that you would have a place of refuge to escape to if the need arises. You would not face any roadblocks to being able to enter the country, and you would also be able to ask for assistance from U.S. consulates and embassies while abroad.
- Access To Government Benefits
While there are some government benefits available to green card holders, as a citizen of the United States, you would be eligible to receive all forms of government assistance that you apply to and are approved for. Some of these federal programs include:
- Social Security retirement benefits
- Medicare or Medicaid
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program
- Pell Grants
There are also state programs that you would be able to receive as residents of Arizona and American citizens, such as:
- Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS)
- Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES)
- Arizona Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Arizona Long-Term Care System (ALTCS)
- Arizona Early Intervention Program (AzEIP)
- Arizona Low-Cost Health Insurance Program (AHCCCS Freedom to Work)
Do The Benefits Outweigh The Drawbacks?
It would be impossible not to consider the possible drawbacks of obtaining citizenship in the United States while still holding citizenship in your country of origin. Most of them derive from the responsibility of having to follow the laws and regulations of two countries at once. As a dual citizen, you will have to pay federal income taxes to the United States – even on wages you earned outside of the country – as well as taxes in your country of origin. Additionally, if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 26, you will be required to register with the Selective Service System. You must also report to jury duty, if you are summoned. Even with these considered, the benefits still clearly outweigh the potential drawbacks.
I’ve Decided To Pursue Dual Citizenship…Now What?
As previously stated, you are not required to renounce citizenship in your country of origin in order to pursue citizenship in the U.S., so the process of obtaining it would be the same as anyone else seeking citizenship. If you are eligible for citizenship – meaning you are 18 years or older, have had permanent and continuous residence for over 5 years, have good moral character, English language proficiency, and knowledge of U.S. history and government – then you will be able to work with an immigration attorney to start the process of applying.
This begins with the completion of Form N-400, which is an incredibly long and complex document. Your immigration attorney will assist you to ensure no mistakes or errors are made and that all supplementary documents are included. Once finished and submitted, you will have to schedule a biometric screening appointment, as well as attend an interview at a USCIS office where your English reading, writing, and speaking skills will be assessed, in addition to completing a short assessment of American government and history.
The Ortega Law Group Can Help You Accomplish Your Citizenship Goals
Our experienced immigration attorney can help you with the process of gaining citizenship from start to finish. Our lead attorney, Isaac Ortega, is knowledgeable of all U.S. immigration laws and stays up to date on any changes and revisions that are made. He offers affordable rates and even payment plans. Call today to schedule your free consultation and learn your options!