Must green card holders apply for citizenship?

At the end of the EB5 investment process, qualifying investors receive their permanent residency green card. This status is valid for 10 years and can be renewed continuously. After five years, permanent residents who meet the necessary requirements can obtain U.S. citizenship. However, some individuals choose to forgo citizenship in favor of remaining green card holders.

U.S. citizenship offers many benefits that are otherwise unavailable to permanent residents, such as protection from deportation even if the citizen is charged with a crime. Citizenship grants access to a U.S. passport — one of the strongest in the world — and federal benefits such as Financial Aid. Citizens can vote in federal elections, run for elected office, and apply for jobs in the U.S. government. Citizens are free from dealing with immigration paperwork; they do not have to renew their green card or pay immigration filing fees. Additionally, children of permanent residents will automatically become citizens when a parent completes the naturalization process. This only applies to children under 18.

Permanent residents are in no way required to pursue U.S. citizenship. Although there are many benefits to gaining citizenship, doing so is entirely optional. There are several reasons why some permanent residents do not apply for U.S. citizenship, such as problems relating to dual citizenship. Dual citizenship means being a citizen of two countries simultaneously. While the United States allows dual citizenship, certain countries — such as India and China — do not. As such, permanent residents may have to relinquish citizenship in their country of origin before they can acquire U.S. citizenship.

Although U.S. citizenship will protect an individual from deportation based on criminal charges, this is not the case for permanent residents. As part of the naturalization process, an applicant’s criminal history will be heavily scrutinized, and certain crimes are grounds for removal. Permanent residents who wish to apply for U.S. citizenship with a criminal record should consult with an experienced immigration attorney before they proceed.