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NC immigration lawyerIf you have come to the U.S. as an immigrant, you may be unsure as to whether you should take the additional steps necessary to become a U.S. citizen. Perhaps you still strongly identify with your native country, or you have heard that the naturalization process can be difficult. Or, perhaps you feel that your status as a lawful permanent resident is sufficient. However, there are many important benefits that are only available to immigrants after they attain citizenship. You may want to seriously consider these benefits and whether they can make a meaningful difference for you and your family.

Rights and Benefits of U.S. Citizenship

When you become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you secure many different rights and benefits. Some of the most notable include:

  • Voting rights - U.S. citizenship is required in order to vote in any federal elections, including elections for President and U.S. Senators and Representatives. Many state and local elections also require voters to be U.S. citizens. Gaining citizenship allows you to exercise your voting rights and have a say in important issues that affect you and your community.
  • Elimination of travel restrictions - Lawful permanent residents can delay their eligibility for citizenship or lose their legal immigrant status altogether if they spend too much time traveling or living outside of the U.S. After becoming a citizen, these restrictions no longer apply, meaning you are free to visit family outside of the U.S. without incurring unexpected consequences. As a U.S. citizen, you are also eligible for a U.S. passport, which can help you travel internationally with fewer restrictions.
  • Protection from deportation - Even lawful permanent residents can be at risk of removal if their Green Card expires or they are convicted of a serious criminal offense. While citizens are of course still subject to state and federal criminal laws, they cannot be deported in connection with a crime.
  • Family visa benefits - Compared to lawful permanent residents, U.S. citizens generally have a higher priority when petitioning for a family visa. After becoming a citizen, you can more easily arrange for the immigration of your spouse, children, parents, and even your siblings and their families.

While becoming a naturalized citizen can be challenging, it may be well worth it. An immigration attorney can help you understand your eligibility to apply and guide you through the process.

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NC immigration lawyerA criminal conviction in the U.S. can have serious consequences for the status of a lawful permanent resident, temporary visa holder, or undocumented immigrant. In many cases, it is grounds for removal or deportation. Immigrants are often unsure of their rights if they are arrested on criminal charges, and as a result, they fail to exercise them. If you are aware of your rights, you may be able to achieve a better outcome in your case.

Are Immigrants Protected by the U.S. Constitution?

Many of the rights afforded to criminal defendants in the U.S. are described in the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. These rights apply not just to U.S. citizens, but anyone who is charged with a crime for which the U.S. has jurisdiction, including both lawful and undocumented immigrants.

For example, immigrants, like citizens, are protected from unreasonable search and seizure of their property and person by the Fourth Amendment, as well as from self-incrimination by the Fifth Amendment. This means you are not required to consent to a search by an officer without a warrant, and if the officer proceeds, any resulting evidence may be inadmissible in a criminal case. You are also not required to answer an officer’s questions, aside from identifying yourself, and in many cases, the officer will notify you of your right to remain silent upon your arrest.

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