An immigration attorney explains the benefits of U.S. Citizenship not available to Permanent Residents

Immigrants to the U.S. sometimes wonder whether they should continue the process to become naturalized U.S. citizens once they have obtained their green cards.  As a Cambridge immigration attorney, I advise my clients that citizenship can provide them with some important rights and benefits that they are not entitled to as permanent residents.

Rights of Green Card Holders

Permanent resident status confers several key benefits.  Once you have a green card you can:

  • Live anywhere you want in the U.S. for the rest of your life.
  •  Work in the U.S., although some government jobs are not open to non-citizens.
  • Leave the U.S. for travel abroad and return at will.

Deportation Risks of Green Card Holders Not Faced by U.S. Citizens

However, as a green card holder, you are subject to removal or deportation for a variety of reasons that are not applicable to U.S. citizens.  Some of these reasons include:

  • Conviction of certain crimes including aggravated felonies, crimes involving moral turpitude, and some drug, firearms, and domestic violence offenses.  Aggravated felonies are crimes like murder and rape, but also offenses that you might not think of like theft and obstruction of justice.  Crimes involving moral turpitude are offenses relating to fraud and dishonesty and include some offenses that may seem relatively minor.  As a green card holder, any contact with the criminal justice system is cause for worry.
  • Violation of immigration laws, for example, by participating in a sham marriage or helping aliens to enter the U.S. illegally.
  • Going on public assistance unless the need for public assistance was caused by an event beyond your control like an accident.
  • Failing to notify the USCIS of a change of address within 10 days.
  • Permanently moving to another country, or remaining outside the U.S. for an extended period.
  • Failing to file a U.S. income tax return while living outside the U.S., or filing your return as a non-resident.

Benefits of U.S. Citizenship

Once you become a citizen, you have the right to vote in U.S. elections, serve on a jury, and run for office.  You have greater rights to bring family members to the U.S. than you did as a green card holder.  As a permanent resident, you can sponsor only your immediate relatives (spouse, unmarried minor children, and parents), but as a citizen you can sponsor your adult children, your married children and their spouses and children, and your siblings and their spouses and children.

Perhaps most importantly, you will not lose your citizenship or be deported for living outside the U.S. or for conviction of crimes short of treason, although you could lose your citizenship if you obtained it fraudulently.

An immigration attorney can help you become a naturalized citizen

Immigration attorney David Ionson is happy to assist you with green cards, visas, and all other immigration issues.  Please call Ionson Law today at (781) 674-2562 to arrange a free consultation.