Benefits and Responsibilities of US Citizenship

Well Worth the Process

New US citizens being sworn in at the WWII Memorial in Washington DC
Naturalization Ceremony Held At World War II Memorial in Washington DC. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Immigrants to the United States who pass the civics examination and take the Oath of Allegiance to complete the naturalization process of achieving U.S. citizenship gain the full protection of the U.S. Constitution, along with rights and benefits denied even to immigrants with long-time legal permanent resident status. However, those benefits and rights 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:

  • brothers and sisters;
  • unmarried adult sons and daughters; and
  • married sons and daughters.

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.

Becoming Eligible for Federal Government Jobs

Most jobs with the 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.

Government Benefits

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.
    (Note that all male US citizens and legal permanent resident immigrants ages 18 to 25 are required by law to register for the military draft.)

    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.

    Note: All phases of the naturalization process and all laws regarding immigration and citizenship are administered by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS).