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COVID-19 AND U.S. CITIZENSHIP –THE BENEFITS OF BECOMING A NATURALIZED CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES

President Trump's Executive Order Suspends Immigration

As of today, April 21, 2020, COVID-19 has claimed over 45,000 lives, millions to be unemployed and has caused turmoil in the economy of the United States. To combat the effects that COVID-19 has had on the nation, the President of the United States has expressed his intent to execute a 60-day temporary suspension of immigration into the United States. This order applies to those applying for permanent residency, aka "Green cards", and not those entering on a temporary basis such as for temporary work or tourism. Although the order is for 60-days, the President has said that he may extend such time depending on the condition of the health-care system and to further protect American workers so that unemployed Americans can be first in line for jobs once the economy rebounds. Because we don't know what other orders the President may execute in the future, it is in the best interest for those here as permanent residents to understand the benefits and protections U.S. Citizenship has.

U.S. Citizenship Status versus Lawful Permanent Resident Status (Green Card)

In this week's article, I will be discussing the benefits of becoming a United States Citizen. Either by birth or by naturalization (the process whereby an immigrant attains U.S. Citizenship), the status of being a U.S. Citizen affords all the protections, rights and benefits accorded under the U.S. Constitution, which includes both federal and state protections and benefits. Although being a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) has its own benefits (such as having the right to live and work in the US), it does not compare to the benefits you recieve if you were a full-fledged U.S. Citizen. Some of the more important benefits of U.S. Citizenship include, but are not limited to:

1) The Right to Live in the United States With Unrestricted Travel – Although as a green card holder, you have a right to travel in and out of the United States of America, it is limited. With only a green card, you can possibly lose your legal status if you remain out of the country for over 180 days, and in the event for extended absences, you must obtain a re-entry permit. If you remain out of the country too long, you may be found to have “abandoned” your green card and therefore, be refused reentry into the United States. My law office has seen many cases where someone obtained a green card, went to Thailand and remained there for a long time, only to have great difficulty returning back to the U.S. In these cases, the U.S. government had alleged that because of the long absence out of the country, that person abandoned their legal status here in the U.S. On the other hand, if you were a U.S. Citizen, you would not have this issue. As a U.S. Citizen, you are not restricted on the amount of time you spend outside the U.S. No re-entry permit is required so you may reenter the country after a long absence, and/or if you have traveled to many different countries.

2) Non-Deportability – If you are a naturalized U.S. Citizen, you are not subject to the grounds of deportability that affect green card holders. Your citizenship status can only be stripped from you if it is found that you obtained that initial status by fraud. Therefore, a U.S. Citizen who is accused of an illegal activity generally has the right to a trial without the threat of being deported. A green card holder facing the same accusation of illegality is susceptible to deportation/removal because they remain within the authority of the USCIS and immigration courts. These illegal activities can cover a number of different reasons, including green card fraud, misrepresentation, felonious activity, etc.

3) Voting Rights & Governmental Change – A United States Citizen has a right to vote in both state and federal elections. This is an important right because it allows you to take part in shaping the system of the U.S. government and dictate possible change. Green card holders cannot vote. They cannot partake in governmental change. As a lawful permanent resident, you reside here in the U.S. given its government shaped by others, not you.

4) Petitioning for other Family Members to Immigrate – As a U.S. Citizen, you have the possibility of petitioning more family members than if you were just a green card holder. For example, U.S. Citizens over the age of 21 may petition for their parents, their married children, and their brothers and/or sisters. In addition, many of these family members qualify as “immediate relatives” and therefore there is no waiting time to petition for your relative. If you are a green card holder, you must wait a number of years before a visa number is available for your relative to immigrate to the USA; which for some has proven to be many, many years, depending on which family category your relative is in.

5) You Do Not Have to Notify USCIS When You Move – USCIS requires green card holders to notify the Department within 15 days of any change of address. Failure to advise USCIS of this change can result in the revoking of your residency right. However, as a U.S. Citizen, you are not under this requirement. As a U.S. Citizen, you no longer have to notify USCIS every time you move!

6) Government Benefits and Aid – Although green card holders can get some benefits and aid from government entities, they do not get the same or to the extent of which U.S. Citizens do. In addition, many federal programs impose a waiting period (ex. 5 years) before green card holders can start receiving some benefits. (To find out whether you meet the eligibility requirements for a public benefit, you'll need to seek information from your local public benefits office). For example, Social Security is a federal program that provides for retirement payments based on the amount of work and earnings a person achieves during their work lifetime. Whereas Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal benefits program that provides cash assistance to low-income seniors and low-income disabled children and adults.

Well readers, I hope this week’s article has given you several new reasons to become a US Citizen. Please be safe and stay healthy!

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Disclaimer: The information contained herein have been prepared for informational purposes only and are not to be considered legal advice unless otherwise specified. If you have a specific question regarding your personal case, please contact the Law Offices of Joseph Chitmongran for a full consultation.