The naturalization process helps green card holders (legal permanent residents) become citizens of the United States and therefore reap the benefits of citizenship. Along with feeling relieved of having to complete more paperwork (as the N-400 is the last immigration document most will need to complete), some of the benefits of U.S. citizenship include the following:
- Having the right to vote in both primary and presidential elections
- Not having to fear deportation if you commit a crime (you can be placed into removal proceedings when you are a legal permanent resident)
- The ability to receive certain government grants and federal scholarships that are only available to citizens and not immigrants
- The ability to petition for certain family members and qualify certain beneficiaries for a path to a green card in certain family-based categories (i.e. the marriage green card route)
- The ability to leave and reenter the U.S. at any time without being subject to the grounds of inadmissibility or requiring a re-entry permit. There are no restrictions on the number of days a citizen can remain outside the United States.
As such, becoming a U.S. citizen is a vital part of the immigration process because it signifies firstly moving from simply a green card status with limited benefits to the full benefits of citizenship. However, one still needs to be admissible in order to become a U.S. citizen, which is why so many problems can arise for N-400 applicants.
The Biden Administration is promising, with its new bill sent to Congress, to provide new pathways to citizenship for immigrants, so that immigrants are not stuck in a “limbo” phase where they are unsure if they want to leave the U.S. or simply continue living without official status.
Some of the provisions that the new bill seeks to address are the following:
- Pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented individuals in the country, prior to January 1, 2021, and legal permanent residence, for certain individuals, after five years
- Shorter pathway to citizenship for people with temporary protected status (TPS) and DACA recipients
Note: Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a little-known program that offers a temporary legal status to certain immigrants in the United States who cannot return to their country of origin due to ongoing armed conflict, natural disaster, or other extraordinary reasons.
- Qualifying unauthorized immigrants for five years with the ability to apply for citizenship after a further period of three years
As of right now none of the questions or information on the N-400 on the USCIS website has changed, and applicants still need either a) three years of continuous residence in the U.S. married to a U.S. citizen or b) five years of continuous residence as an individual.
In addition, the Bill does not specify what a pathway for undocumented immigrants would look like, or if this would involve a new naturalization form or simply the ability to be admissible for a green card at this point.