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What are the benefits of U.S. citizenship?

South Carolina residents living in the United States pursuant to a visa or green card may wonder about the benefits of applying for U.S. citizenship. While green card holders may typically live in the United States indefinitely, provided they do not leave for more than six months, there are some additional rights and benefits to individuals who take the oath to become citizens.

A person who goes through the naturalization process does not have the six-month limitation on leaving the country. As a result, it may be possible to visit friends or family members in another country for as long as the person wishes, without requiring trips back to the United States. While traveling, the person can invoke the protection of the U.S. government if necessary. Citizenship carries the right to vote, which is not granted to visitors or permanent residents. Another benefit of citizenship is the right to hold public office. Citizens may run for positions such as mayor, congressman, city council or governor. The only offices not available to naturalized citizens are President and Vice-President of the United States.

Another big reason that many permanent residents apply for citizenship is that it allows them to sponsor other family members to move to the United States. Thus, naturalization allows families to be reunited. When a person takes the oath, citizenship is also automatically granted to minor children in the parent's custody. Children born after naturalization occurs are automatically citizens by virtue of having born to a U.S. citizen.

The naturalization procedure can seem confusing and even a little intimidating, and each applicant presents a unique set of circumstances. However, an immigration attorney may be able to help guide individuals throughout the process by filing the necessary paperwork and working to resolve any issues that arise.

Source: Findlaw, "U.S. Citizenship & Naturalization Overview", September 08, 2014

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