Why should I become a U.S. citizen?
If you have been a Legal Permanent Resident in the United States for more than 5 years, or if you have been a Legal Permanent Resident for more than 3 years and have a spouse who is a U.S. citizen, you might qualify for Naturalization. Naturalization is just a fancy word for becoming a U.S. Citizen. Becoming naturalized gives you access to all of the benefits of U.S. citizenship, including jobs, aid, and voting! Once you become a citizen in Oregon, you can:
Register to vote.
After you become a U.S. citizen, you can vote in both state and national elections.Voting is an important way to make your voice heard!
In Oregon, it is important to be able to vote on legislation that will impact you and your family. Specifically, in November, the Oregon driver’s card bill will be on the ballot. To find out more about the driver’s card, which will enabled undocumented persons to drive, get updated here. If you need a voter registration form, we have some here at ILG.
Receive federal benefits.
Benefits include supplemental security income (SSI), medicaid, temporary assistance for needy families (TANF), and supplemental nutrition assistance (SNAP), and housing assistance.
- In Oregon, citizens can apply for an Oregon Trail card, which is used like a debit card to purchase food through the SNAP program and other items through TANF.
- If you qualify for TANF, you and your family may get cash from Oregon’s government––TANF offers up to $506 in benefits for a family of three.
- If you qualify for SNAP, you and your family may get help purchasing food. Check out their website or pre-screen yourself for eligibility.
- By becoming a US citizen, you also might become eligible for housing assistance. Check out the federal housing policy, and then look at Oregon housing help.
If you live in Oregon and think that you might be eligible for a federal benefit program, prescreen yourself through this screener on Oregon Helps. You might be eligible for more help than you think!
Sponsor family members for green cards.
Both Legal Permanent Residents and U.S. citizens get green cards for their family members. However, U.S. citizens can petition for a wider variety of family members than permanent residents can, with shorter waiting times! U.S. citizens can sponsor their parents, spouse, children, adult sons and daughters with their families, and siblings with their families. Check out this article to learn more about family based petitions.
While family members of permanent residents have to wait in line for a visa to become available, when U.S. citizens petition for family members there is no waiting period for a visa to become available for the family member(s).
Get derivative citizenship for children.
Depending on the circumstances, your children who were born outside of the US may be able to naturalize automatically when you become a U.S. citizen.
Hold a federal job.
Federal jobs aren’t just for government officials. Once you become a U.S. citizen, you can apply for federal jobs! In Portland, federal positions include public affairs specialists, biologists, and file clerks for government departments. Here’s a full list of available federal jobs across the country, and here’s a list of federal jobs available in Oregon (including jobs in Portland).
Become an elected official.
In Portland, elected officials include commissioners, auditors, and the mayor.
You can live outside of the U.S. or take long trips outside of the US.
Once you are a U.S. citizen, your rights to enter and exit the US are protected. This means that you can visit family, follow a job opportunity to another country, or go on an extended vacation! Before you leave, apply for a passport.
If you are not a US citizen but you have a green card, your rights to travel and live outside of the country are limited.
You, or your children, can file for financial aid.
Once you are naturalized, you may qualify for federal financial aid when you fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This can make a big difference in the cost of college classes! Along with receiving federal aid, filling out the FAFSA makes you eligible for institution-based aid.
What should I do before I apply for naturalization?
Get screened by a lawyer you trust! Not everyone is eligible to become a naturalized citizen, and for some it may be risky to apply. The only way to know all of your options is to make an appointment for immigration screening and find out. For more information about immigration screening at ILG, click here.
What if I am not eligible to be a naturalized US citizen?
Though naturalization opens the doors to many benefits within the United States, some benefits are available to undocumented persons without Social Security Numbers. Without a SSN, you can:
- Open up a bank account
- Register for school
- Apply for school lunch programs
- Apply for (some!) scholarships
- Qualify for SNAP––if you have been a lawful resident for at least 5 years, or if you are a child or refugee, you may also qualify for SNAP. If you apply, don’t worry! Applying won’t change you status as a resident within the US or cause you to be deported!