Benefits and Responsibilities of US Citizenship

New US citizens being sworn in at the WWII Memorial in Washington DC
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Many of the benefits of U.S. citizenship, such as the assurances of equal protection under the law and due process of law are granted by the U.S. Constitution and federal laws to both citizens and non-citizens living as lawful permanent residents in the United States. Immigrants to the United States who pass the civics examination and take the Oath of Allegiance to complete the naturalization process of achieving full U.S. citizenship gain the full protection of the U.S. Constitution, along with several rights and benefits denied even to immigrants with long-time legal permanent resident status. At the same time, the benefits of U.S. citizenship do not come without some important responsibilities.

Benefits of Citizenship

While the U.S. Constitution and laws of the United States give many rights to both citizens and non-citizens living in the United States, some rights are only for citizens. Some of the most important benefits of citizenship are:

Sponsorship of Relatives for Permanent Resident Status

Persons holding full U.S. Citizenship are allowed to sponsor their immediate relatives - parents, spouses and unmarried minor children - for U.S. Legal Permanent Resident (Green Card) status without waiting for a visa. Citizens may also, if visas are available, sponsor other relatives, including:

  • Unmarried sons and daughters, 21 years of age and older, of U.S. citizens;
  • spouses and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents;
  • unmarried sons and daughters, 21 years of age and older, of a lawful permanent resident;
  • married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; and
  • brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age and older).

Obtaining Citizenship for Children Born Abroad

In most cases, a child born abroad to a U.S. citizen is automatically deemed to be a U.S. citizen.

In general, children born abroad to U.S. citizen parents may obtain full U.S. citizenship either at birth or and after birth but before the age of 18. Congress has enacted laws that determine how citizenship is conveyed by a U.S. citizen parent (or parents) to children born outside of the United States. In general, the law requires that at the time of the child’s birth, at least one parent was a U.S. citizen, and the U.S. citizen parent had lived in the United States for a period of time.

Becoming Eligible for Federal Government Jobs

Most jobs with federal government agencies require applicants to be U.S. citizens.

Travel and Passport

Naturalized U.S. citizens may possess a U.S. passport, are protected from deportation, and have the right to travel and live abroad without the threat of losing their Legal Permanent Resident status. Citizens are also allowed to re-enter the U.S. repeatedly without being required to re-establish proof of admissibility. In addition, citizens are not required to update their address of residence with the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) every time they move. A U.S. passport also allows citizens to get assistance from the U.S. government when traveling overseas.

Naturalized U.S. citizens become eligible for a wide range of benefits and assistance programs offered by the government, including Social Security and Medicare.

Voting and Participation in the Electoral Process

Perhaps most importantly, naturalized U.S. citizens gain the right to vote, and to run for and hold all elected government positions, except for President of the United States.

Showing Patriotism

In addition, becoming a U.S. citizen is a way for new citizens to demonstrate their commitment to America.

Responsibilities of Citizenship

The Oath of Allegiance to the United States includes several promises immigrants make when they become U.S. citizens, including promises to:

  • Give up all prior allegiance to any other nation or sovereignty;
  • Swear allegiance to the United States;
  • Support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States; and
  • Serve the country when required.

All U.S. citizens have many responsibilities other than the ones mentioned in the Oath.

  • Citizens have a responsibility to participate in the political process by registering and voting in elections; 
  • Serving on juries is another responsibility of citizenship;
  • Finally, America becomes stronger when all of its citizens respect the different opinions, cultures, ethnic groups, and religions found in this country. Tolerance for these differences is also a responsibility of citizenship.
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Longley, Robert. "Benefits and Responsibilities of US Citizenship." ThoughtCo, Oct. 7, 2021, Longley, Robert. (2021, October 7). Benefits and Responsibilities of US Citizenship. Retrieved from Longley, Robert. "Benefits and Responsibilities of US Citizenship." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).