Each year, more than three-quarters of a million people apply for US citizenship and ultimately a US passport. These applicants are looking for some of the major benefits that U.S. citizenship entails. They involve such things as: the ability to travel visa-free with a US passport, the right to return freely to the United States, the right to live, work and earn in the United States, not to being deported or losing status, the ability to sponsor family members to immigrate to the United States, the ability to live freely abroad without maintaining ties to the United States, the ability to apply for numerous federal jobs, federal grants, scholarships, and other government benefits, including federal agency jobs and receiving federal college assistance available only to U.S. citizens, the ability to pass your estate on death using certain tax benefits, freedom from having to report changes of address to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the ability to vote in federal elections and to run er to public office, and the ability to automatically pass citizenship on to your children. Obviously, there are a lot of benefits that come with citizenship.
To be eligible to apply for citizenship, the applicant must be a permanent resident of the United States and have a government-issued green card to signify this status. To apply for citizenship, in most cases, applicants must have had their green card for five years, but in the case of someone sponsored as the spouse of a US citizen, the eligibility period is only of three years. There are some other key requirements to become a citizen in the naturalization process i.e. to become a US citizen.
Applicants must be 18 years of age or older, have lived at least half of their time as green card holders in the United States, and have also been physically present in the state they are applying from for 90 days before applying, be of good character including having no serious criminal record, be willing to abide by the United States Constitution, be willing to bear arms, perform non-combatant service, or perform work of significance citizenship, pass a citizenship test, generally know English, and swear allegiance to the United States.
Processing times are long
Currently, the naturalization process in the United States takes some time. Here is a rough overview of processing times:
- Step 1: Submitting your naturalization application – processing time is approximately 14 months (average)
- Step 2: Attend your biometric appointment: part of the time above
- Step 3: Planning your interview and citizenship test: approximately 4 additional months (average)
- Step 4: Receive a decision on your application: may take up to 4 additional months
- Step 5: Attend your Pledge of Allegiance ceremony to receive your naturalization certificate: say about 2 months
Total naturalization time: 18 to 24 months, although sometimes it can be faster.
Barriers to citizenship
Sometimes there is also a catch, such as in cases where the US Citizenship and Immigration Service needs to check your immigration history. At the beginning of this year, the the wall street journal published a story stating, “More than 350,000 immigration history requests were pending with the National Archives and Records Administration as of this month.” Apparently, there are about 80 million files stored in a mile-long network of man-made limestone caves beneath the Kansas City metro area in government storage facilities known as the Federal Records Centers. Imagine what a bureaucratic nightmare it must be to search through these files to find the information requested by candidates. That takes time.
In addition, delays are also encountered due to the fact that applicants are generally not allowed to inquire about their case with the citizenship agency until their case has exceeded normal processing times, which in the Boston area, for example, can be as long as 15 months, according to government data. Apart from these delays, however, the US government is trying to pave the way for applicants to obtain their citizenship and passport sooner.
Not everyone wants citizenship
That said, however, not everyone is rushing to get, or keep, their U.S. citizenship. In fact, the Number of Americans who renounced their citizenship in favor of a foreign country reached an all-time high in 2020 was 6,707, an increase of 237% from 2019. This was the last year we have statistics from waiver because Covid interrupted the process at US consulates until recently. Processing citizenship waiver applications is a low priority for the US government and therefore there are delays.
Why Some Americans Renounce Citizenship
Some of the top reasons Americans renounce their citizenship include the following.
Once you have renounced your US citizenship, you no longer have to pay US taxes. In this regard, however, it is important to have paid all your taxes up to the year you quit because tax evasion is not a legitimate reason to quit. Additionally, the US government charges a $2,350 fee to renounce citizenship, and some applicants may also have to pay an exit tax if they qualify as covered expatriates.
Unlike virtually every other country in the world, US taxes are based on citizenship regardless of residency. Once you opt out, you are no longer subject to complex US annual tax filings and are free from complex US tax rules. Getting rid of U.S. citizenship can, in some cases, also protect you from future legal changes.
Persons intending to renounce U.S. citizenship should be aware that unless they already possess a foreign nationality, they may become stateless and therefore not enjoy the protection of any government. They may also find it difficult to travel as they may not be entitled to a passport from any country. Usually, the US government will not allow a waiver to proceed if it is likely to be the consequence of the approval.
Also, it is important to note that by opting out, you lose benefits, such as the right to vote, consular protection, and especially for many people, the right for your children and grandchildren to live and work. in the United States in the future.
Also, once you give up, it’s done. The recovery of your nationality is irrevocable and irreversible. The only exception to regaining US citizenship is if you renounced before the age of 18.
The renunciation process must be voluntary and with the intent to renounce U.S. citizenship. You have to appear in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic official in a foreign country (normally at a U.S. embassy or consulate). You must sign an oath of waiver and pay the fee.
In conclusion, the decision to apply for US citizenship or to renounce it depends on your personal situation. Such a decision is important and worth consulting with a US immigration attorney.