Although the ultimate dream of millions of immigrants coming to the United States is citizenship, many fall short of the goal as they encounter obstacles that are part of the complex web of procedures in immigration law. It is also possible for undocumented workers and green card holders who currently live in North Carolina and elsewhere to become citizens.
While immigrants make up only 8% of the population in North Carolina, a large segment of the labor force comes from the state’s immigrant population, of which more than a third are naturalized American citizens. Of this population, 39% are undocumented workers.
The limits of a having a permanent resident card
A green card is like a permanent resident visa that allows non-citizens to legally live and work in the United States if they are here to work, are eligible family members, have asylum or refugee status, or have a continuous residency in the country.
A non-resident who has a green card must renew it every ten years, and they must also inform the government every time they move anywhere within the country. They can lose their legal status if they leave the country and then stay abroad beyond the legal limit, and they may be unable to return if they are not granted a reentry permit.
- citizenship, on the other hand, grants individuals the right to obtain a passport that allows them unrestricted reentry. American citizens can apply for higher education and government jobs, may carry a gun and vote and have full access to social security benefits. And, of course, the government cannot deport a U.S. citizen.
The naturalization process
The two ways that individuals may obtain citizenship are by naturalization or acquisition. Acquisition is possible for some family members, such as children whose parents have applied for them at birth or before their 18th birthday. The naturalization process has specific requirements that establish an applicant’s eligibility for citizenship, including:
- Determining if the applicant is already a U.S. citizen
- Reviewing eligibility
- Preparing and submitting Form N-400 and paying fees
- Biometrics appointment
- Interview process with the USCIS
- Decision by the USCIS to either grant, deny or continue the process by obtaining additional information
- Reviewing the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizens, and taking the the Oath of Allegiance
U.S. immigration laws are constantly changing, so it is essential to understand not only filing procedures and deadlines, but also eligibility requirements and restrictions that may complicate the application process. For residents of Greensboro and surrounding areas, it is important to get the information you need that applies to your unique circumstances.