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Becoming a U.S. Citizen

       Article I, section 8, clause 4 of the United States Constitution expressly gives the United States Congress the power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization. The Immigration and Naturalization Act sets forth the legal requirements for the acquisition of, and divestiture from, citizenship of the United States. The requirements have become more explicit since the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, with the most recent changes to statutory law having been made by the United States Congress in 2001.

       Many people consider the United States to be the greatest country in the world, and most of us who live here agree. It’s not surprising that so many people from other parts of the world come to the United States or that many of them want to stay here. With such a demand to become part of this great country, it is important that there is a well-defined process for legally entering this country and staying here for a short time or permanently. It is a complicated and lengthy process, but if you decide you want to stay here permanently, the information presented in this book will provide you with resources and guidance you need to become a U.S. citizen so that you can enjoy all of the many benefits this great country has to offer.

Rights and Benefits

       The United States has been called “The Land of Opportunity” and a place where you can “live the American Dream.” Although the Constitution and laws of the United States extend many rights to both citizens and noncitizens, some rights are extended to U.S. citizens only, for example:

Voting: Only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections, and most states also restrict the right to vote to U.S. citizens.

Bringing family members to the United States: Citizens generally get priority when petitioning to bring family members permanently to this country.

Obtaining citizenship for children born abroad: In most cases, a child born abroad to a U.S. citizen is automatically a U.S. citizen.

Traveling with a U.S. passport: A U.S. passport enables you to get assistance from the U.S. government when you are overseas.

Becoming eligible for federal jobs: Most jobs with government agencies require U.S. citizenship.

Becoming an elected official: Many elected offices in this country require U.S. citizenship. In addition to these and many other benefits, U.S. citizenship also comes with certain responsibilities. When you take the Oath of Allegiance, you make several promises as a U.S. citizen, including that you will:

Give up all prior allegiance to any other nation or sovereignty

Swear allegiance to the United States

Support and defend the Constitution and U.S. laws

Serve the country when required

       U.S. citizens also have a responsibility to participate in the political process by registering and voting in elections. Serving on a jury is another responsibility of citizenship. In addition, the United States becomes stronger when all of its citizens respect the different opinions, cultures, ethnic groups, and religions found in this country. Thus, tolerance for differences is another responsibility of citizenship. As you can see, becoming a citizen of this great country is not something that should be taken lightly. However, it is a decision that certainly comes with many benefits. Before you are granted citizenship, you will be interviewed by an officer of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is likely that you will be asked about why you want to become a citizen and whether you accept these responsibilities willingly. Be sure to consider these questions carefully before beginning this process.

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