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Before You Become a U.S. Citizen

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September 17 marks Constitution Day and Citizenship Day in the United States.  In an effort to promote citizenship and naturalization and to develop some good will, USCIS actively posts stories of new Americans here.

Foreign immigrants who have their greencards may apply for citizenship.  This process is called naturalization.  You can actually ready about my fun story becoming a U.S. citizen on Quora.  One of the upsides to obtaining full rights and responsibilities as a citizen is that you can vote in an election.  For hotly contested elections like this year’s presidential election, it’s a great to be able to voice your opinion and cast your vote.

Though, there are some pitfalls.  For a minority of current greencard holders, citizenship may actually not be the wisest course of action.  A couple of things to consider.

First, your native country of citizenship may have certain rules about dual or foreign citizenship.  Could you automatically lose your native citizenship if you naturalize as a U.S. citizen?  Maybe.  For example, German citizens who hold greencards may want to investigate the “beibehaltungsgenehmigung” (a special permit) to preserve German citizenship prior to naturalizing as a U.S. citizen.  For other foreign citizens, the loss of native citizenship may also mean the loss of financial or other incentives, such as the right to own land.

Second, if you committed a serious crime, and was convicted at any point after receiving your greencard, applying for naturalization may actually subject you to greater scrutiny by the government.  It’s like pointing a spotlight on your past bad behavior.  The list of bad acts, (aka Grounds of Deportability) that can subject you to getting deported back to your home country is quite long.  They include bad acts like human trafficking, fraud, domestic abuse, stalking, falsely claiming U.S. citizenship, and way way more.  For certain behaviors, you can officially ask the government to excuse you (i.e.: seek a waiver), but the list of offenses that may be waived are few.

So before you embark on your journey towards citizenship, double-check to make sure you’re actually on the right track.  Once the application is sent off, there’s really no turning back.

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