US Citizenship after GC

Posted on February 13, 2007 by Warren Wen | Category: Immigration

Why Should You Apply for U.S. Citizenship After You Become a Permanent Resident

In the previous article, we gave an overview of U.S. family-based immigration.  U.S. permanent residents can legally work and travel in and out of the United States.  Therefore, many Asian green card holders do not consider applying for U.S. citizenship, even though they have been permanent residents for more than ten years.  The USCIS has increased the requirements for naturalization in recent years.  This which has made some of the Asian green card holders continually postpone their naturalization applications.  Compared to being a permanent resident, however, being a U.S. citizen may have four main advantages: 1) Many states provide medical care and welfare for U.S. citizens only; 2) If U.S. permanent residents need to travel or work overseas for a long time, it may cause many inconveniences, whereas U.S. citizens may not have as many problems; 3) If a U.S. permanent resident commits a crime such as driving under the influence of alcohol, stealing, family violence and so on, the permanent resident’s green card status could be cancelled and he could be deported, whereas a U.S. citizen does not need to worry about this; and 4) U.S. citizens have less limitations and more choices for family-based immigration.

For family-base immigration, there are three main differences can be noted between U.S. citizens and permanent residents:

First of all, eligibility is different.  Comparatively speaking, U.S. citizens have more choices.  As a U.S. citizen, one can apply for a green card for both immediate relatives and preference relatives, which include spouses, parents, unmarried children (under 21 years of age), married children and siblings.  However, lawful permanent residents are only eligible for green card applications for their preference relatives, which include spouses and unmarried children (under 21years of age).

Secondly, the quotas for green card applications are different.  When a U.S. citizen applies for his or her spouse, parents, or unmarried children (under 21 years of age), all three subcategories are counted in the categories of Immediate Relative, which means there are no quota limits on the number of visas.  Therefore, a qualified U.S. citizen can directly apply for green card with the USCIS and NVC without having to wait for the priority date.

Lawful permanent residents are in a different situation.  Lawful permanent residents’ spouses or unmarried children (under 21 years of age or about) are considered preference relatives.  Therefore, when lawful permanent residents apply for a green card for their preference relatives, they need to wait for their priority date in order to file the immigration visa application.  There is an annual cap of 114,200 for preference relative’s green card applications. In addition, the quotas are allocated differently depending on which countries and regions aliens came from.

Thirdly, the waiting period to apply for a green card is different.  If the immediate relatives of the U.S. citizens are physically in the United States, the U.S. citizens can file I-130 (Petition for Alien Relatives) and I-485(Petition for Changing Status) at the same time.  Normally, the whole application process takes 9 to 12 months.  If the immediate relative lives in the foreign country, however, the application process may take 12 to 18 months.

If the relatives of a lawful permanent resident are physically in the United States, the lawful permanent resident is only allowed to apply for I-130 (Petition for Alien Relatives).  He or she has to undergo a waiting period of several years.  It is only when the waiting period is up and the visa number is available that the lawful permanent resident can apply for I-485 to change the status.  The overall process requires more time.  For example, according to the latest visa bulletin from the Department of State (January, 2008), the cut off date for most is on February 22, 2003 for lawful permanent residents’ spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years old).  If the relatives of lawful permanent residents want to stay in the United States during their waiting period, they would somehow need to maintain a legal status in the United States until they are qualified to file I-485 application.

This article is only for your reference. Please do not apply mechanically to any exact cases. You are welcome to consult our attorneys at Liu & Associates, P.C. For contact information, please click here.