The Advantages and Disadvantages of being a Dual Citizen (Part 1)Posted on March 14th, 2010 under Wealth of Advice
By Michael J. Gurfinkel, Esq.
Dear Attorney Gurfinkel:
I am a Filipino citizen and am now eligible for U.S. citizenship, as I have been a green card holder for more than 5 years. Can you please explain some of the advantages and disadvantages of being a dual citizen of the Philippines and the U.S.?
Very truly yours,
Dual citizenship is recognized and allowed under U.S. law. While at one time dual citizenship was “frowned upon”, courts have now recognized that dual nationality is “a status long recognized in the law” and, “the mere fact that [a person] asserts the rights of one citizenship does not without more mean that he renounces the other”. In other words, dual citizenship is allowed.
I believe there are many advantages in becoming a U.S. citizen. These include the following:
- A person can never be deported/removed once he or she is a U.S. citizen. Remember, even if you are a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), you could still be deported (i.e., if a green card holder later commits certain crimes, including assault, theft, etc.). I know of many situations where a person had been a green card holder for decades but never got around to naturalizing. For one reason or another, they got into trouble with the law, and were convicted of a crime that made them deportable. Had they become a U.S. citizen before their crime, they would not have endangered their future in America.
- A citizen can petition more family members than a green card holder. While a green card holder can only petition his or her spouse and unmarried children (whether the child is under or over 21 years of age), a US citizen can also petition his or her parents, brothers and sisters, and married children (in addition to spouse and unmarried children). Of course, the waiting time for brothers and sisters and married children is very long, but a parent of a U.S. citizen is considered an “immediate relative”, and is immediately eligible for a green card (It typically takes less than a year to process a parent for a green card.) I know that many working Filipinos in the U.S. with small children love the fact that they can bring their parent to the U.S. to act as a trusted babysitter, to raise their children while they are at work.
- A U.S. citizen can stay outside the U.S. for as long as he or she wants. If a person is an immigrant, he or she can typically stay outside the U.S. for no more than six months (without running into additional complications). If an immigrant stays outside the U.S. for more than one year, it is considered that he or she abandoned their green card. There were many situations where a person got a green card, and then went back to the Philippines for more than a year (either to finish schooling, got married and/or were raising a family in the Philippines, etc.). Therefore, he or she had abandoned his or her green card. In contrast, a U.S. citizen can stay outside the U.S. for as long as he wants, and will not lose his U.S. citizenship because of any long absence from the U.S. In fact, there are cases where a U.S. citizen may have never lived in the U.S., but is still considered one. Therefore, staying outside the U.S. for as long as a person wants is another advantage to citizenship.
- A U.S. citizen does not need a visa to travel to many countries. As a U.S. citizen, a person is able to travel to Europe and many other countries without having to obtain a visa from that country. If a person is only an immigrant, he may still be required to obtain a visa to travel to many countries around the world.
- A U.S. citizen also may vote in U.S. elections. This can be very critical, because immigrants are not allowed to vote in U.S. elections. In fact, it is a very serious immigration violation for non-citizens to vote in U.S. elections. I have seen many situations where an immigrant inadvertently voted in a U.S. election, and it messed up their chances for naturalization
As you can see, there are many advantages in obtaining U.S. citizenship. However, in some cases there could also be a number of issues or problems if a person applies for U.S. citizenship. For example, if a person obtained his green card illegally (i.e. he obtained a green card as “single”, but was really married), then applying for U.S. citizenship could result in the person’s fraud being discovered. In that case, they would not only be denied citizenship, but could also possibly be placed in removal/deportation. Similarly, if an immigrant has a criminal record, applying for naturalization could create complications or possible removal/deportation. Moreover, if a male between the age of 18 and 26 failed to register for Selective Service, he may not be eligible for U.S. citizenship until he reaches the age of 31 (Therefore, it is very important for males to register for Selective Service.) In addition, if a person has an “aged-out” child, who qualify for benefits under Section 3 of Child Status Protection Act (CSPA), that parent may not want to naturalize, as it may affect the child’s age out benefits.
That is why it is important that if a person is thinking about pursuing citizenship, they may want to first seek the advice of a reputable attorney, to make sure it is “safe” to do so, and that the person is truly eligible for citizenship.