Citizenship is preferred to green card status, even though both grants an individual the right to live in the United States, and travel abroad with the ability to return. Citizenship bestows upon an individual rights that a green card holder cannot posses, such as the right to vote, to serve on a jury, and other rights that only citizens can possess. More importantly, citizenship provides an individual with peace of mind. A green card holder can lose his or her status if he or she resides outside of the United States for an extended period of time. Also, if the green card holder is convicted of, or admits to, certain crimes the green card can be taken away. Such a result often causes families great hardship. A alien who is naturalized cannot lose his or her citizenship unless the alien lied or committed fraud during the immigration process, or engage in some form of treason against the government.
In order for a green card holder to become a naturalized United States citizen there is a waiting period that must be complied with. Aliens that obtain a green card through marriage must wait 3 years in order to apply for naturalization. Aliens that otherwise obtain a green card must wait 5 years to apply for naturalization. It is important to note that not every green card holder is eligible for citizenship, and the alien should consult with an experienced immigration attorney, such as the attorneys at Hilf & Hilf, PLC, before beginning the process. Furthermore, if the alien wanting to become naturalized was previously convicted of a crime, it may be advisiable for him or her not to try to become naturalized. If the government learns of an alien’s criminal record during the naturalization process, it could lead to removal prooceedings that otherwise would have been avoided. Again, it is important to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer if there are criminal law issues that could impact the alien’s immigration status.
The alien must submit Form N-400 Application for Naturalization to begin the process. Once the application is processed the alien is scheduled for an interview.