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United States to immigrants: 'We want you'

There are many people in South Carolina and approximately 7.9 million in the entire United States who are eligible to become naturalized citizens but have not done so.

This week, it was announced that the United States federal government is planning to kick off a national advertising campaign aimed at giving these immigrants the encouragement they need to become American citizens and become more included in society.

The ad campaign, which is set to focus mainly on California, New York, Florida and Texas, will aim to create a "sense of urgency" in filing applications to naturalize, said the division chief of policy and programs for the Office of Citizenship at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Specifically, the advertisements will give the personal stories of people from China, Vietnam, Mexico, Dominican Republic and the Philippines who have naturalized in their native languages. The ads will also provide directions to a government website that was created to help immigrants with the naturalization process.

Although immigration experts say that many immigrants are reluctant to apply for citizenship because they do not see the need or worry that their English isn't polished enough, there are major benefits to becoming an American citizen.

One is that as a citizen, immigrants are able to vote for their representatives and become more active in politics. This gives people the opportunity to have a voice in government. Additionally, becoming a citizen gives people a sense of belonging in their communities.

"I think that communities run much better - a neighborhood, a city, a county, a state, a country - when the people who live there actually have a full stake in what goes on there," said an assistant professor of sociology at Stanford University.

But what are the rules for applying for citizenship?

  • Immigrants must hold a green card for five years before applying for citizenship, but people who are married to American citizens may be able to apply sooner.
  • Applicants must show good moral character and pass English and civics tests.
  • Once accepted as a United States citizen, people can sponsor their family members to join them in the United States.

If you are ready to become a citizen of the United States and need help with the process, contact an immigration attorney in your state.

Source: Fox News, "US gov't to promote citizenship in ad campaign," 5/25/2011.

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