MANY kababayans in America, even those among my own circle of family and friends, take their sweet time before taking the first step toward naturalization to become U.S. citizens. This, despite the pains and struggles of obtaining their Permanent Resident card (green card) so they can legally live and work in the U.S.
Some have separation anxiety — that sadness of letting go of their Filipino citizenship and professing loyalty to a country other than the Motherland. Others are worried about the cost of filing for naturalization, while there are those who just forget about it until their green cards are about to expire.
If you and your family have made the decision to permanently live in the US, there are reasons why you should apply for citizenship sooner rather than later.
On The Filipino Channel’s daily newscast “Balitang America,” Pinoy Panawagan legal counsel Atty. Lou Tancinco shares the important reasons why, which I hope can help you make that urgent decision:
1. Family unity
Green card holders or non-US citizens who are permanent residents may petition their unmarried children as well as their spouses. However, unlike US citizens, they are not allowed to petition their parents, their married children and their siblings.
Being a US citizen provides them the ability to petition more family members including their future spouses or fiancées. Also, US citizens may petition their minor children and spouses faster (about 12 months) as compared to green card holder petitioners.
Filipino immigrants who are family-oriented would prefer to be naturalized as US citizens rather than wait to be reunited with their family members.
2. Avoiding separation
Once a green card holder migrates, the permanent resident status is not really “permanent” in the sense that it may be revoked for cause by the US Department of Homeland Security.
This happens when an immigrant is convicted of a removable/deportable offense, even if family members are all US citizens.
This happened to a longtime Filipino immigrant who was arrested for a traffic violation but was later found to have a criminal history. The criminal convictions he had were deportable offenses and resulted in his deportation from the United States; consequently, he was separated from his US citizen spouse and children. This situation could have been avoided if the immigrant was a naturalized US citizen at the time of conviction.
To prevent any unintended immigration consequences, it would be best to apply for US citizenship as soon as the immigrant meets the eligibility for naturalization.
3. Civic engagement
Filipinos are the second-fastest growing minority group, and integration to the adopted land becomes critical. Naturalized US citizens are given access to voting, political rights and can seek equal protection of the law. A naturalized US citizen may hold elected positions that will not only protect the interests of their constituents but also their community.
4. Federal employment
A naturalized US citizen may be afforded opportunities for federal employment with better benefits. Many Filipinos have joined the US military and have become US citizens giving them the ability to petition family members and enjoy military benefits.
5. Ease of travel
This is probably the least important in terms of the reasons for becoming a US citizen but interestingly, some Filipinos carry pride in holding US passport when traveling to other countries.
Certainly, there are more than these five reasons to apply for US citizenship. The motivation may be toward immigration integration but it does not take out the “Filipino” in the immigrant.
With success or failure, the Filipino naturalized US citizen will still be perceived as a Filipino in his/her adopted land.
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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos