The Value of Citizenship The United States has a long history of welcoming immigrants from all parts of the world. America values the contributions of immigrants who continue to enrich this country and preserve its legacy as a land of freedom and opportunity. Deciding to become a U.S. citizen is one of the most important decisions in an individual’s life. If you decide to apply to become a U.S. citizen, you will be showing your commitment to the United States and your loyalty to its Constitution. In return, you are rewarded with all the rights and privileges that are part of U.S. citizenship.
For those who fail to become a United States citizen, because they cannot speak English, cannot pass the US history test, do not want to be a US citizen, committed a crime that disqualified them from citizenship, did not file tax returns, did not satisfy the good moral character requirements or were disqualified for other reasons, they all risk the possibility of deportation.
To assist all the groups listed above, on December 19, 1998, the Immigrant’s Journal Legal & Educational Fund, Inc. (IJLEF), under the leadership of attorney Brian Figeroux was launched to assist immigrants to the United States with their citizenship applications. Eventually, this program was called IJLEF’s Deportation Inoculation Program, because large number of deportation proceedings that was dividing immigrant families. Recent statistics show that 50, 000 families have been separated from their fathers, because of deportation orders.
Why should I become a Citizen? There are many advantages to becoming a U.S. Citizen (as opposed to just keeping one’s green card as a permanent resident. Here are ten reasons to become a U.S. Citizen:
Ten Reasons to become a US Citizen
Not Being Deported: Permanent Residents accused of a crime may be deported. The crime does not even have to be a “serious crime”. Permanent Residents remain under the authority of USCIS and the Immigration Courts, and are subject to potential deportation. As a U.S. Citizen, your right to remain in the U.S. cannot be taken away.
The Right to Vote and Hold Public Office, as an Elected Official.: Only U.S. Citizens can vote on their representatives to political office, on local tax issues, and other ballot measures such as should gay marriage be allowed.
Tax and Estate Reasons: Property left to a spouse is exempt from the estate tax, if the spouse is a U.S. Citizen. The tax code also allows other free transfers of property between U.S. Citizen spouses. If the spouse is not a U.S. Citizen the transfer is subject to taxation.
Guaranteed Re-entry to the United States After Traveling Abroad: After leaving the U.S. for more than 180 days Permanent Residents can lose their green card upon attempted re-entry if the Port of Entry determines that the green card has been abandoned. An immigration attorney can obtain a re-entry permit for green card holders, which allows a Permanent Resident to travel abroad for up to two years without “abandoning” his/her U.S. residence.
Government Jobs and Benefits: Some government jobs and benefits are only available to U.S. Citizens. In fact some government agencies specifically do not protect permanent residents eligible for Citizenship who decided not to become Citizens within 6 months of eligibility.
The Right to Sponsor Family Members for a Green Card: Becoming a U.S. Citizen comes with the privilege of the ability to sponsor relatives for a green card including parents, children, spouses, and siblings. “Immediate Relatives” may obtain a green card immediately, while other categories such as siblings have a very long wait because only so many visas are issued each year per country per category.
Protecting Your Children: Permanent Resident Children under the age of 18 in their parent’s lawful legal custody automatically become Citizens. Also, obtaining U.S. citizenship for one’s own child(ren), even if born abroad.
Grants and Scholarships: Many College Scholarships and other Federal Grants are only available to U.S. Citizens.
Performing Certain Civic Duties: Like serving on a jury, participating in the political process, etc. Serve the country when called upon. Support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
U.S. passport: Many persons desire to travel abroad on a U.S. passport. When abroad you will have the full force of the U.S. Government behind you, including assistance from the U.S. embassies if needed. Many countries recognize dual citizenship.
The Eligibility Criteria
If you are interested in applying for U.S. citizenship, first make sure that all of the following apply to you:
* you have lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years (with exceptions for refugees, people who get their green card through asylum, spouses of U.S. citizens, and U.S. military personnel)
* you have been physically present in the United States for at least half of the last five years
* you have lived in the district or state where you are filing your application for at least three months
* you have not spent more than a year outside the United States
* you have not made your primary home in another country
* you are at least 18 years old
* you have good moral character
* you are able to speak, read, and write in English
* you are able to pass a test covering U.S. history and government (based on questions provided by USCIS), and
* you are willing to swear that you believe in the principles of the U.S. Constitution and will be loyal to the United States.
For free assistance with your citizenship applications, call IJLEF, at 718-243-9431, and schedule an appointment or visit: www.ijlef.org.
Figeroux & Associates
26 Court Street, Suite 701
Brooklyn, NY 11242