My wife just sent her application for US citizenship last month and I’m really surprised on how expensive it is nowadays. The application fees have increased throughout the years as Â now the cost is $680 ($595 for the N-400 form application and $85 for the biometric fingerprinting). It seems that almost every year the fees are increasing since just ten years ago, the fee was around $90 only!! Â Per the USCIS, the fees may be attributed to faster processing and improved customer service.
My officemate mentioned that it is much faster now to become naturalized US citizens since her husband completed the whole process in just six months. He submitted his application around September 2010 and he had his oath taking session around February of this year. Well, I guessed this may be true as my wife has just completed her fingerprint last week, this is just one month after she filed her application.
Some of the Key Benefits of US Citizenship
I have to convinced my wife to become a US Citizen immediately because of the various benefits it provides. The four most common ones are:
Right to Vote
It is always nice to have your voice heard by exercising this right. Every vote counts even if what you’re voting does not win. Â It is amazing how there are a lot of permanent residents here in the United States that are equally affected by the laws but they can’t vote since they are not citizens.
Having a US citizenship comes with a lot of perks when it comes to traveling. Most countries allow US citizens to enter as a tourist in their country without having to obtain tourist visas. Currently, my wife holds a Filipino citizenship but because of her permanent residency status in the US, she won’t need to obtain a tourist visa whenever she travels to Mexico or Canada. However, if she need to travel to other countries, my wife will need to obtain a tourist visa before she can enter. Although the chances of getting approved is high since she is a US resident, it is still a hassle and may cost additional money as well for the visa fees.
Another travel perk would be protection from abroad. If there is a disaster or political unrest on the visited country, US citizens can ask for assistance at the US embassy there and they would be taken care for a safe return here in the United States. I’m not sure how it works with regards to treatment of non-US citizens who have permanent resident status in the United States: Would the US embassy accommodate them as well or would they go back to their country of citizenship? The last thing that we do not want to happen is we have to be separated if their is a disaster or political unrest on the visited country. That’s why I told my wife that just to be on the safe side, it is better for her to become a US citizen before we start travelling outside of United States again.
Working For Federal Government
In some federal government positions, only US Citizens are allowed to work due to the sensitivity of information. This may include positions at the FBI, Homeland Security, military, etc. In some cases, even private contractors of federal government may also be required to have a US citizenship in order to do business with the government. Again, it all boils down to how much security clearance is required for a particular project.
Bringing Families To United States
US citizens have first priority in bringing families in the US. My wife still has her mother and sister in the Philippines. She can bring them much faster if she is a US citizen as oppose to just being a permanent resident.
Living Abroad Without Losing The Right To Return
When non-US citizens who have US permanent residency status resides abroad for a long period of time, they may lose their residency status and may lose the right to return. This is not the case for US citizens.
Some of the Eligibility Criteria
Not everybody can apply for the US naturalization. In fact, a lot of applicants have been rejected due to various reasons. If you are interested in applying, you need to make sure that you are eligible by meeting the following criteria:
- You have lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years (with exceptions for refugees, people who get their green card through asylum, spouses of U.S. citizens, and U.S. military personnel)
- You have been physically present in the United States for at least half of the last five years
- You have not spent more than one year outside of United States.
- You have lived in the district or state where you are filing your application for at least three months
- You have not made your primary home in another country
- You have good moral character
- You are able to speak, read, and write in English
- You are able to pass a test covering U.S. history and government
- You are willing to swear that you will be loyal to the United States
- You believe in the U.S. Constitution.