who is a us citizen? is it important to be one?

Some people acquire US Citizenship immediately at birth; for others, US citizenship is conferred later in life. Regardless of how it is acquired, there are very fundamental reasons why a person would want to be recognized as one.

Birthright Citizenship

Under United States law, any person born within the United States or territories that are possessions of the US is automatically considered a US citizen at birth. Moreover, most children born to American citizen(s) parents abroad are automatically granted US citizenship as well.

Derived Citizenship


US citizenship can also be acquired after birth either by application through US citizen parents or by filing an N-400 naturalization application with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). In addition to the application, naturalization applicants are subject to an in person interview at which time they may be required to show a command of the English language and to pass a US history exam.




Benefits of US Citizenship


US Citizens have the right to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation. This is one of the main reasons a foreign national who enters the US initially on a visa, may desire to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder) and then apply for US citizenship.  Just because an individual has a US citizen spouse or children, does not mean that he/she has an automatic right to remain in the United States, especially if that person has an issue with law enforcement.  Any time a green card holder has a run-in with the police, even if the case is later dismissed, it is cause for concern as the person may be deported from the United States or become ineligible for US citizenship. This places a heavy burden on US families.

Ours is a country that was founded on the premise of welcoming immigrants from all over the world many of whom have left incredible legacies behind. In fact, the United States has benefitted greatly from the contributions of many of yesterday’s immigrants, who are today’s citizens.

Whether acquired at birth or later in life, the rewards of being a US citizen are similar in nature.  Qualifying individuals, who are eligible to become  US citizens, must take an oath of allegiance that they will be faithful to and uphold the Constitution of the United States, America’s supreme law, and agree to serve their new country, if needed. In exchange, new citizens may be able to petition to sponsor and bring certain qualifying family members from overseas to join them in the United States, reuniting families.

One of the most fundamental rights granted by the US constitution to US citizens is the right to vote. Only US citizens have the right to vote in federal elections and to be candidates in most local, state and federal elections. Participating in a federal jury is another important benefit which many US citizens enjoy. Members of the jury help determine the innocence or guilt of the accused and federal jurors are randomly selected from databases such as voting or driver’s license lists. Finally, another important aspect of US citizenship is that US citizens benefit from international protection because the US protects its citizens abroad through its embassies and consulates.

Economically speaking, US citizens also benefit from having access to more jobs in the country since the federal government is one of the largest employers in the world and offers many job opportunities in a wide range of industries. All available federal jobs are posted on the USAjobs.gov website and the majority of federal jobs require that applicants be US citizens.  For new US citizens who are still in academia, more student aid is available to them because the federal government has different types of financial assistance for U.S. students, which include scholarships and grants that are only available to US citizens. These are but a few of the benefits of becoming a US citizen.

N-400 Application


In order to apply for US citizenship, eligible applicants must fill out an Application for Naturalization, Form N-400. On the form, which has now been expanded to 21 pages, the applicant must disclose whether he or she has “ever been arrested, cited, or detained by any law enforcement officer (including USCIS or by the former INS or any military officer) for any reason.” Another question asks whether he or she has “ever committed a crime or offense for which you were not arrested.” It is clear that it is the USCIS’ purpose to study in depth more than the applicant’s actual court records they wish to obtain a full picture of whether he or she is a person of “good moral character”. This means, proving to the US government that the applicant does in fact possess good moral character and any inkling of trouble in one’s life, if not balanced out by positive factors, could undermine this showing and an applicant’s chances of becoming a US citizen.  For example, if the USCIS has reason to believe that an immigrant has engaged in the crime of drug trafficking or prostitution or even if the immigrant is a habitual drunkard or is a drug addict or abuser, the USCIS examiner can simply decide that the immigrant has not shown that he/she is a person of good moral character, and deny the US citizenship request.

It goes without saying that you need to tell the truth when applying for an immigration benefit and the failure to do so can result in the possibility of being denied or even stripped of US citizenship if the government discovers an omission or falsehood. This is in addition to the requirement that every applicant for US citizenship must undergo a fingerprint check, which would disclose any arrest record.

For all the above listed reasons, it is important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney; one who has familiarity with completing and filing immigration applications.

* This article is based on information available as of its publication and is not intended to be all-inclusive or to furnish advice in a particular case.  We are not responsible for any changes in regulations that may occur subsequent to publication.  Please feel free to contact our office for further information and advice.


Michael J. Wildes, is the Managing Partner of Wildes and Weinberg, P.C. Mr. Wildes is a former Federal Prosecutor with the United States Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn (1989-1993). Mr. Wildes has testified on Capitol Hill in connection with anti-terrorism legislation and is internationally renowned for his successful representation of several defectors who have provided difficult to obtain national security information. He is frequently a legal commentator/analyst for network television. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York and teaches Business Immigration Law. From 2004 through 2010, Mr. Wildes was also the Mayor of Englewood, New Jersey–where he resides. Wildes and Weinberg, P.C. has offices in New York, New Jersey and Florida. If you would like to contact Michael Wildes please email him at michael@wildeslaw.com and visit the firm’s website at www.wildeslaw.com.


For Further Information On How We Can Help Your Firm Meet Its Employment Eligibility Verification Obligations, Please Contact Amy Wildes At amy@wildeslaw.com

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