Citizenship is a legal immigration status that gives people more rights and protections. If you were not born in the USA, you can apply to become a citizen if you meet certain requirements. People born in the USA are automatically citizens.
1. Stay in the USA legally
You can live and work in the USA permanently. U.S. citizens are protected from immigration detention and deportation. You cannot be deported to your home country for violating certain U.S. laws. U.S. citizens are not required to carry proof of citizenship status except when entering or leaving the country.
Legal permanent residents (LPRs) are also allowed to live and work in the U.S. permanently but are required to carry their green card at all times. Permanent residents also must renew their green card.
2. Get citizenship for your child
You can get citizenship for children under 18. Children born to U.S. citizens in the USA or abroad automatically become U.S. citizens. Children of naturalized citizens automatically get derivative citizenship. Your current and future children can have the protection of U.S. citizenship.
3. Bring your family to the USA
You can petition to bring family members permanently to the United States. You can sponsor your spouse, unmarried children under 18, and parents for permanent resident status with a green card. The number of immediate relative visas is not restricted for citizens so you do not have to wait for a visa to become available.
U.S. citizens also get priority when applying to bring their adult children and siblings to the USA.
4. Travel with a U.S. passport
You can apply for a U.S. passport. You will not be restricted on how long you can travel within a given year. For example, green card holders who travel outside the USA for more than one year have to apply to return to the United States. U.S. citizens with passports cannot be denied entry into the USA.
U.S. passport holders typically undergo faster security checks at U.S. airports and border crossings. U.S. citizens also get help from U.S. embassies or consulates while traveling abroad. Traveling with a U.S. passport allows you to make short trips to over 100 countries without a visa.
5. Receive government benefits
You will have easier access to federal public benefits that can help you pay for basic needs. Non-citizens have more restrictions. You can get public benefits like Medicaid and Food Stamps. Medicaid offers free or low-cost health coverage to people with low income. Food stamps help people with low-income pay for food.
6. The right to vote in elections
You can vote in all U.S. elections on the federal, state, and local levels. Citizens have a voice in electing government leaders such as the president, senators, representatives, governors, and mayors. Voting allows you to choose people who share your values and interests. Non-citizen immigrants can only vote in some local elections.
7. Work in government jobs
You can apply for government jobs. Most federal jobs with the government require U.S. citizenship. Some state and local government jobs may also require citizenship status to apply. Many employers in the private sector also give preference to U.S. citizens.
U.S. citizens also have the right to serve on a jury.
8. Run for public office
You can be someone elected to represent your community. Only U.S. citizens can work in certain public offices such as the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives. Currently, immigrants like Representative Ilhan Omar represent over 14% of Congress. Running for public office is another way to be a voice for your community.
9. Apply for federal scholarships and grants
You will also be eligible for certain federal scholarships and grants. Fulbright, Gilman, and Critical Language Scholarship are examples of programs that are available only to United States citizens.
10. More opportunities
U.S. citizens have a higher chance of finding employment and typically earn more than non-citizens. They are more likely to own a home.
The benefits of citizenship allow you to have a greater sense of community and belonging.
Listen to stories of naturalized citizens
Information on this page comes from USCIS and other trusted sources. It is intended for guidance and is updated as often as possible. We aim to offer easy to understand information. USAHello does not give legal advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal advice.