Civic duty and civic responsibility

Becoming a U.S. citizen is a proud moment that comes with many benefits. It also brings with it some important responsibilities and duties. Learn how you can contribute to your community and country.

Updated March 1, 2024

What is civic duty and responsibility?

Civic duties are actions that laws require you to do as a U.S. citizen. Civic responsibilities are steps you voluntarily take to support your community. Civic engagement takes those responsibilities further by working on problems that affect everyone in the community. 

Your responsibilities and duties as a citizen also come with certain benefits and rights.

10 ways to be a responsible U.S. citizen

1. Show your loyalty to the USA

You will have taken the Oath of Allegiance if you are a newly naturalized citizen. It is a civic duty to be loyal to the USA and give up loyalty to any other country. 

U.S. citizens can have citizenship in two countries at the same time. Some countries do not allow dual citizenship with the USA. You may have to give up your citizenship if your country of nationality does not allow dual citizenship. 

2. Follow U.S. laws

It is important to respect and follow all laws in the United States, whether they are local rules, state laws, or federal nationwide laws. This civic duty includes everything from driving safely to paying your taxes.

Following U.S. laws helps our community work together to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being. See this list of important U.S. laws you should know. 

3. Vote in elections 

Voting is one of the most important rights and responsibilities that citizens have. Only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections. In most states and local elections, you also have to be a citizen to vote.

You are not required to vote but it is highly encouraged. Voting for government officials and laws is a way to voice your opinions about issues you care about. 

Read a guide to voting for immigrants.  

4. Register for the Selective Service

All men living in the USA, who are between 18 and 25, are required by law to register with the Selective Service System. This registration is not a commitment to serve in the military but a way to make sure you are counted in case of an emergency and there is a national draft. 

Registering is important for eligibility for certain government benefits and programs. U.S. citizens must register within a month of turning 18. Male immigrants 18 to 25 must register within 30 days of arriving in the United States.

You can also choose to serve in the military but it is not required.

5. Serve on a jury

If you are a U.S. citizen 18 or older, you may be called to do jury duty. A jury is a group of people who look at facts and make decisions in a court case. Only U.S. citizens can be part of a jury. 

If you are chosen for jury duty, you must go to your local court. The judge and lawyer will ask you questions to see if you are a good fit for the jury. Depending on the case, you may need to commit to being on the jury for a specific amount of time.

Get more information about jury service

6. Pay taxes 

Everyone must pay federal, state, and local taxes. This is an important civic duty of U.S. citizens and others living in the USA. U.S. citizens have to pay taxes even when living outside the USA. Taxes help pay for government programs, including schools, hospitals, and public benefits. 

Find out more about paying income taxes.

7. Get involved in your community 

Being an active participant in your community is rewarding and everyone benefits from it. You can join neighborhood groups, go to local events, and volunteer for causes you care about. 

You can help those in need of support and build a safer, thriving community. Finding ways to help your community is a good way to make friends and feel connected. 

Read about ways to give back to your community. 

8. Stay informed 

Knowledge is power. Stay informed about what is happening in your community and country by reading news from reliable sources, attending community meetings, and discussing issues with friends and family. Understanding the issues helps you make better decisions as a citizen.

9. Embrace diversity 

Respecting different beliefs, opinions, and lifestyles makes our community stronger. It is important everyone feels included. Understanding and celebrating our differences is key to building a better society.

Learn more about diversity

10. Run for office or support a candidate

Taking an active role in politics is a powerful form of civic engagement. If you are passionate about making a difference, consider running for a local office or supporting a candidate who represents your values and interests. Getting involved in politics is a way to effect change in your community and beyond.

Are you not a U.S. citizen yet? Find helpful information in our U.S. Citizenship Guide

The information on this page comes from USCIS and other trusted sources. We aim to offer easy to understand information that is updated regularly. This information is not legal advice.