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Should you apply for citizenship?

Should you apply? from Michael Boyle on Vimeo. 3 min.

The advantages of citizenship

The advantages of citizenship are significant, and obvious. You can vote. You can sponsor a broader range of relatives to immigrate to the US, and bring them here more quickly and easily than a permanent resident can. Your permanent resident children, under eighteen and in your custody, automatically acquire citizenship when you do. You enjoy more favorable estate tax treatment than permanent residents. You cannot be deported. You may be eligible for government benefits that permanent residents are not. You can travel or live abroad for as long as you want without having to worry about losing your right to live in the United States.

And the disadvantages…

Remember that when you make a naturalization application, you open your whole life to close scrutiny by the government. Tax problems, family problems, legal or criminal problems, and even immigration problems from the distant past are all of interest to the government. In the worst case, a citizenship application can lead to deportation. In our materials we try to point out some of the most common problems. Others can be unearthed if you review and complete your application with an attorney.

What if if I have a problem?

If you have any of these potential problems, we would strongly recommend that you hire an attorney.

  • If you got your green card through marriage, did you separate or divorce shortly after your green card was approved?
  • If you got your green card through work, did you change jobs shortly after your green card was approved, or never take the job for which you were sponsored?
  • Did you lie to get your green card or was there something wrong with the process? (For example, did you get your green card as an unmarried child although you were married? Did you get the card through marriage, but a divorce became final before the case was approved, etc.)
  • Did you not file your taxes or file late during the five years (three if you are married to and living with your U.S. citizen spouse) before filing your citizenship application?
  • Do you owe taxes to the IRS or your state?
  • Have you ever been arrested, even if the charges were dropped, even if it was for a small offense like shoplifting or creating a public disturbance?
  • Many of these problems can be overcome by careful planning and documentation, but you should know what can be fixed and how before your apply or go to your interview.

    What about your citizenship in your home country?

    Another concern is how becoming a citizen of the United States can effect your status in your country of nationality or birth. Does that country recognize dual nationality, or will you lose your status there? Our written materials provide some guidance, but you may want to speak to your “other” country’s consulate or consult a lawyer from that country.

    Finally, the application process is time-consuming, stressful, and not inexpensive. The questionnaire is long, and the real significance of the questions is not always obvious. If everything goes smoothly, you can expect to pay $680 in fees to the government, and to lose at least half a day of work when you go for your interview. If you have not anticipated what Immigration wants or if you encounter other problems, you will likely spend additional time, and perhaps money, responding to a request for evidence, returning for a second interview, or making an appeal or second application. (Or you may give up in frustration and have an abandonment or denial on your record.)


    Comment from cywp1Michael
    Time: April 12, 2008, 9:52 am

    An article from the New York Times, Legal Immigrants, Until They Applied for Citizenshipshows how unexpected problems can arise from filing a citizenship application.

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