For many people immigrating to the United States, securing the right to stay here permanently is all that matters. Once they have their green cards, they are comfortable with their circumstances. They don’t want to take the next step of naturalizing or becoming a United States citizen.
People view naturalization as complicated or difficult. They may not see the benefit of becoming a citizen when they can stay in the country legally. Naturalization does require paperwork, an interview with immigration officials and tests, but it extends several noteworthy benefits to the people who become United States citizens.
What changes when you become a United States citizen?
Your family’s immigration options expand
Entering the United States might mean leaving behind the people that you love. For many immigrants, the main goal of naturalization is to reconnect with their extended family. Permanent residents can help certain family members travel to the United States, but citizens have far more options.
Those who want to bring their parents, their siblings or their married children to the United States will typically find that becoming a citizen is the fastest route to achieving that goal. The family preference visa program, for example, gives higher preference to citizens and has more categories that apply to the family members of citizens.
You get to vote in federal elections
Having your say in the United States government is a privilege and a responsibility. No matter how long you have lived in the country legally, you cannot vote for the next president or other federal offices until you become a United States citizen. You will also have the opportunity to run for more political offices than you could as a permanent resident.
You can receive a United States passport
Depending on your country of origin, there could be significant limitations on where you can travel safely. A United States passport can help you visit places that have previously been inaccessible to you. Whether you have family living in another country or work as a journalist in what access to places you cannot currently reach, a United States passport could be a compelling reason to complete the naturalization process.
Learning more about what changes when you become a United States citizen could make naturalization seem like a worthwhile effort.