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Guide to Becoming a US Citizen

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Green card holders in the US enjoy many of the same rights of US citizens. Normally, green card holders can live in the US as long as they desire and then can work for almost every kind of employer. However, US citizenship allows some important additional benefits that should be considered.

Here are some good reasons why you should consider becoming a US citizen, once you have determined if you are eligible:

1. Patriotism and Voting - If you are making your permanent home in America, you probably want to fully participate in the US democracy, so becoming a citizen is vital. Generally speaking, only citizens in this country can vote. Voting is the easiest way to influence the way the country is run.

2. Retaining residency - The only way to guarantee you will forever have the right to remain in the US is to naturalize. US permanent residents are always at risk of losing their green cards if they spend long periods of time outside the US. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, this has become a serious problem and more and more people are losing their residency status because they are deemed by port of entry officers as having abandoned their permanent residency in the US. Please visit's guide for maintaining your US permanent residence status to make sure you are fulfilling your obligations as a permanent resident.

3. Deportation - If you are ever convicted of a crime - and not necessarily a very serious crime - there is a risk of being deported. Once you become a citizen, with rare exceptions, you retain your citizenship even if you run into criminal problems.

4. Government benefits - Some US permanent residents are restricted from access to the same public benefits as citizens. And in recent years, there has been more and more talk of making additional kinds of public benefits only available to citizens. The only way to ensure that this will not ever be a problem is to become a naturalized US citizen.

5. Immigration for family members - US citizens receive priority treatment when it comes to bringing in family members. Citizens over 21 years of age can sponsor family members without waiting on a queue for a visa to become available. The same is true for spouses of US citizens and minor children of US citizens. US citizens can also sponsor adult children and siblings, though the waits in these categories can be a few to several years. Green card holders, on the other hand, cannot sponsor parents or siblings. And the wait to bring in children and spouses are much longer than for citizens.

6. Federal jobs - Certain types of jobs with government agencies require US citizenship. This is particularly true for jobs in the energy and defense sectors.

7. Running for political office - Many types of elected positions in this country require the officeholder to be a US citizen.

8. Tax consequences - US citizens and permanent residents are not always treated the same for tax purposes. This is particularly true for estate taxes.

9. Federal grants - While many federal grants are available to permanent residents, more and more are only available to US citizen applicants.

10. Political contributions - While green card holders can legally donate money to campaigns if they are residing in the US, it is not clear that green card holders residing abroad - even temporarily - can do so.