While obtaining a green card is the goal for many clients, there are benefits to U.S. citizenship that your clients may not realize. The two biggest benefits of U.S. citizenship include increased freedom to travel and the ability to sponsor certain additional family members.
How does a client become a U.S. citizen?
U.S. citizenship is usually granted in two ways: birth/family relations or through the process known as ‘naturalization.’ The first step in becoming a naturalized U.S. citizens (with a few rare exceptions), is to obtain a legal permanent residence (a ‘green card’). Please see our previous articles or an experienced immigration attorney for more information on the legal permanent residency process.
What travel benefits can clients get from U.S. citizenship?
Unlike green card holders, U.S. citizens are eligible to travel with a U.S. passport. Many countries allow visa-free travel for U.S. citizens. Further, there are no restrictions for U.S. citizens on the number of days they can remain outside the U.S.
This is in contrast to permanent residents who, as mentioned in one of our previous posts, must actively maintain their permanent residency. Extended travel or taking up full time residency in another country may result in abandonment of an individual’s U.S. permanent residency.
Generally, U.S. citizens get priority when petitioning to bring family members permanently to the U.S. Unlike lawful permanent residents, there is no cap or limit on visas for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.
Immediate relatives include:
· Children (unmarried and under 21)
· Parents (if client is over 21)
Further, U.S. citizens are also eligible to petition for some other family members outside their immediate relatives. These relatives are subject to an annual limit, but would otherwise not be able to receive sponsorship through a non-citizen or would receive a lower preference category. Family members eligible for U.S. permanent residency include:
· Unmarried adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (1st preference category for citizens versus 2nd preference category for green card holders)
· Married sons and daughters (any age)
· Siblings (if client is 21 and over)