If you have lived in the U.S. as a legal resident for at least five years, you may be able to apply for citizenship through naturalization. While holding a green card allows you to participate in many parts of American life, full citizenship may offer even more opportunities for you and your family.
However, if you are like many immigrants with permanent residency, you may wonder if it is worth the time and effort to do so.
1. What are the benefits of becoming a citizen?
Some of the biggest benefits of full citizenship include the right to vote in state and federal elections, apply for a U.S. passport and hold certain government jobs. Other advantages include:
- The ability to travel/live outside the U.S. without losing your visa status
- Protections against removal or deportation
- The right to seek legal residency for family members, including your spouse, children, parents and siblings
2. What are potential obstacles?
If you have committed a crime in the U.S. or in another country, know that applying for citizenship may put your residency status at risk. Even a relatively harmless conviction may lead to loss of your green card, and a serious crime may lead to deportation.
3. Does a past crime mean I can never become a citizen?
While having a criminal record may make it difficult to gain citizenship, it is not impossible. If your crime was minor, the immigration office may still approve your application if you can show that you have acted responsibly toward your family, at your workplace and in your community.