Congratulations on becoming a citizen

Last week, I went to a naturalization/citizenship ceremony. My sister-in-law became a citizen a while ago, and I was bummed that I missed her ceremony. So when a co-worker happened to passingly mention that he was becoming a citizen last week, I convinved another co-worker to sneak out of work with me to show our support.

The ceremony was fascinating. We got there late, so instead of being in the guest balcony we were seated with all the people being naturalized. I actually felt like I was part of the ceremony. At the beginning of the ceremony, they read off each of the countries represented and had people stand. Most people were from China or India. There were also large groups from Russia and Mexico.

Everyone had to stand and recite an oath that included phrases about rejecting your former country and bearing arms for America. It was all very surrealistic. There were a few speeches given. The new citizens were encouraged to register to vote. As a treat, we all said the pledge of allegance. It ended with a video of President Bush.

The ceremony wasn’t nearly as exciting as the feeling of being there. Over 400 people became citizens. Each with their own unique story. For my co-worker, his story started 25 years ago when he first came to the US as a child. I was grateful that he shared his life story with me. It was moving. And his was just one story. It made me realize all that I take for granted. All that I’ve been born with and never knew life without.

Below is a list of rights granted to naturalized citizens. This doesn’t really seem like much, but they are only the advantages once you’ve gotten past the green card. It just makes me start to think of what rights people do or don’t have in other countries. Something to think about.

* A citizen does not generally have to reside in the U.S. By contrast, Green Card holders can have their Green Cards revoked if they fail to reside in the U.S. If you become naturalized you do not have to be concerned about replacing your Green Card with newer versions. For example, the INS announced the expiration of the old Green Card forms I-551. All people in possession of the card had to apply for replacement with a secure, machine-readable Alien Registration Receipt Card. Citizens do not have to do this.

* Only American citizens can obtain a U.S. passport.

* Entering the United States is easier with a US citizenship than with a Green Card.

* Many countries waive visa requirements for U.S. passport holders.

* With a U.S. passport, you are eligible for U.S. citizen services from U.S. embassies and consulates when traveling throughout the world.

* U.S. citizens do not have to carry proof of citizenship. On the other hand, INS feels that permanent residents must always carry their Green Cards. INS has detained permanent residents who forgot to carry their Green Cards.

* Ability to vote in the United States.

* Immigrate other family members to the United States.

* Prevent risk of deportation. A non-citizen can be deported for a convicted crime while a citizen cannot.

* Eligibility for state and federal jobs.

* Ability to live outside of the U.S. and never lose citizenship.

* The right to run for public office.

* No need to file green card renewal applications.

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