One of the questions I get about US immigration law is “should I file for my US citizenship” or what are the benefits to getting my US citizenship, if I’m already a green card holder? Even though I want you to read the entire blog, I’m going to give you the answer right now, the answer is unequivocally yes, you should file for your US citizenship as soon as you possibly can. Now that we got the answer out of the way, I’m sure most of you wondering why should I get my US citizenship, if I already have my green card and my Social Security card, what are the benefits.
- The right to vote in elections and serve on a jury. I’m sure for most, this would seem like the least important reason to file for US citizenship, but it is your civic duty to do so. I understand that many people do not vote in national elections and even less vote in local elections, but the right to vote is one of the most important rights that are afforded to a US citizen. Without the right to vote, your opinion simply does not matter. And for most of us who have actually served on a jury, most of those people certainly do not want to go through that experience again, but once again this is your civil duty. It is the one time that a US citizen gets to be part of the judicial process of the United States of America.
- The next reason someone would want to file for US citizenship, after they already have their green card, and the ease of sponsoring other relatives would be the second reason to do this. Even though a green card holder or legal permanent residents of the United States may sponsor relatives to immigrate United States and apply for a green card, the process is much easier and quicker for a US citizen to sponsor their family members, then it is for someone who simply only has a green card.
- The third main reason why someone would want to file for US citizenship, is simply so they never have to worry about being deported. For many reasons this actually should be the number one reason why should/must file for your US citizenship, after you’ve had your probational green card for five years or three years for someone who received a green card through marriage. Most people do not realize that just because you have a green card, you can be deported, for many crimes you never thought would be serious enough to get deported from the United States for. Simply stated, any crime that is considered a moral turpitude, is a crime that can get you deported, even if you have a green card. May ask what is a crime of moral turpitude? Basically a crime of moral turpitude is a crime in which you are hurting another person or society at large. For example, if you were to get arrested for possession of cocaine, you would not be deported for that, as the only person you’re hurting is your self. But if you were to get arrested for distributing cocaine, which is a crime of moral turpitude, you will certainly be deported from the United States.At this moment I have a number of clients who have had dear green cards for over 10 in 20 years, and they are now being deported for very simple crimes. I have one client that 15 years ago purchased a boat from someone and never knew that bullet was stolen, he was then arrested and had to appear before a judge in criminal court. He decided to settle the matter himself that day, without an attorney, and simply took a plea that only included court costs and three months probation. Even though it took 15 years of US government to catch up with him, more specifically catch up with his file, he received the summons to immigration court and is now in the process of being deported, for crime he didn’t even realize he committed. Another client of mine was in a bar having a drink with one of his family members and witnessed two gentlemen get into an argument that was obviously becoming physical. Being a good Samaritan, he attempted to break up this fight, but at that moment two police officers were called by one of the patrons walked in the bar. With the police officer saw were three guys struggling with each other, as the altercation had gotten a little more serious. That gentlemen for being a good Samaritan was arrested and was charged with assault and battery, simply for trying to break up a fight. The situation was very similar as the previous example, this gentleman simply took a plea with court costs and very short probation and after 10 years later, he is now in deportation proceedings. Another example would be a client who had her psychological condition which caused her to steal objects from stores of little value, and her compulsion had her give these objects you stole two other people. All the items were under $250, but in Massachusetts that crime which is called larceny under $250, is a crime of moral turpitude. As the items that were stolen were all recovered and were of very little value anyway, she never thought much of the incident. Similarly, she pay court costs and served a very short probation sentence, and thought the ordeal was behind her. Seven years later, she too is in deportation proceedings. All the examples that I have provided for you were very minor crimes and one could argue the reason these people are in this position is because they did not hire an experienced attorney to fight these cases or to settle them for crimes that were not deportable. Yes it is true, that any of these people for less than $2500, could’ve hired an expense attorney and got them off with the case dismissed or pled to a charge that would not get them deported. But other facing deportation and legal fees in the range of $10,000-$15,000 to deal with these minor crimes that were a decade or more in the past.
So the moral of the story is, once you obtain your green card, schedule a consultation with an experienced immigration attorney to apply for US citizenship once the appropriate time has passed, based on the manner in which the responsive for a green card. Once again for the vast majority of all green cards you will need to have your probational green card for five years before you can file for US citizenship, those who received their green card through marriage may file for their green card within three years; derivative children of this situation must still wait five years to apply for US citizenship, even though there parents only has to wait for three years.
Joseph F. Botelho, Esq.
BOTELHO LAW GROUP
Attorneys At Law
901 Eastern Ave.
Fall River, MA 02723