Your Rights and Responsibilities as a New US Citizen

Woman wearing hijab listens to a speech being given at a naturalization ceremony with her hands folded over citizenship documents

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Many immigrants dream of being afforded the freedoms and opportunities that accompany American citizenship.

Those who are able to pursue naturalization gain many of the same rights and privileges of citizenship as natural-born American citizens—such as freedom of speech; freedom of expression and worship; and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There is one benefit naturalized U.S. citizens are not afforded, however: they are not eligible to serve as president of the United States or vice president.

Citizenship also brings important responsibilities. As a new U.S. citizen, you are expected to give back to your adopted nation by fulfilling these duties.

Rights of Citizens

  • Vote in elections: Voting in local, state, and federal elections isn't mandatory, but it is a vital part of any democracy. And as a new citizen, your voice is as important as any other.
  • Serve on a jury: Unlike voting, jury duty is mandatory if you receive a summons to serve. You might also be called as a witness in a trial.
  • Fair and speedy trial if accused of a crime.
  • Travel with a U.S. passport: More than 100 countries allow American citizens to travel within their borders for a specified period of time without a visa if they have a U.S. passport.
  • Run for federal office: Once you are a U.S. citizen, you are qualified to run for any local, state, or federal office outside of the president and vice president. Only natural-born citizens are eligible for those two positions.
  • Become eligible for federal grants and scholarships.
  • Apply for federal employment that requires U.S. citizenship.
  • Freedom to express yourself: This freedom is granted to non-citizens and visitors in America as well, but as a new citizen, it is a right that cannot be taken away.
  • Freedom to worship however you wish (or to refrain from worship): This right is also granted to anyone on American soil, but as a citizen, you can now fully claim this right.
  • Registering with Selective Service to defend the country: All males between the ages of 18 to 25, even non-citizens, must register with Selective Service, the program that will be used if a military draft is ever reinitiated.
  • Bring family members to the United States: Once you become a citizen, you can sponsor other family members to join you as green card holders. While green card holders can sponsor only spouses, parents, and children to live with them in the United States, citizens can sponsor spouses, parents, children, fiancé(e)s, and siblings.
  • Obtain citizenship for children born abroad.

Responsibilities of Citizens

  • Support and defend the Constitution: This is part of your oath taken when you became a citizen during which you declared allegiance to your new country.
  • Serve the country when required: This could mean taking up arms, performing non-combat military service, or carrying out other "work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law," according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Participate in the democratic process: More than just voting, this involves getting involved in causes or political campaigns you believe in.
  • Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws.
  • Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.
  • Participate in your local community.
  • Stay informed on issues that affect your community and country.
  • Pay local, state, and federal income taxes honestly and on time.
View Article Sources
  1. "Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities." U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 23 Apr. 2020.

  2. "Family of U.S. Citizens." U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 23 March 2018.