5 reasons Filipino immigrants apply for US citizenship
Immigrants who have resided in the United States for an extended period of time aspire to become US citizens for different reasons.
For the more than 4 million Filipinos who decided to live and make the US their adopted land, the following are some of their motivations for seeking naturalization.
- Family unity
Green card holders or non-US citizens who are permanent residents may petition their unmarried children as well as their spouses. However, unlike US citizens, they are not allowed to petition their parents, their married children and their siblings.
Being a US citizen provides them the ability to petition more family members including their future spouses or fiancées. Also, US citizens may petition their minor children and spouses faster (about 12 months) as compared to green card holder petitioners.
Filipino immigrants who are family-oriented would prefer to be naturalized as US citizens rather than wait to be reunited with their family members.
- Avoiding separation
Once a green card holder migrates, the permanent resident status is not really “permanent” in the sense that it may be revoked for cause by the US Department of Homeland Security.
This happens when an immigrant is convicted of a removable/deportable offense even if family members are all US citizens.
This happened to a longtime Filipino immigrant who was arrested for a traffic violation but was later found to have a criminal history. The criminal convictions he had were deportable offenses and resulted in his deportation from the United States and consequently was separated from his US citizen spouse and children. This situation could have been avoided if the immigrant was a naturalized US citizen at the time of conviction.
To prevent any unintended immigration consequence, it would be best to apply for US citizenship as soon as the immigrant meets the eligibility for naturalization.
- Civic engagement
Filipinos are the second highest growing minority group and integration to the adopted land becomes critical. Naturalized US citizens are given access to voting, political rights and can seek equal protection of the law.
A naturalized US citizen may hold elected positions that will not only protect the interests of their constituents but also their community.
- Federal employment
A naturalized US citizen may be afforded opportunities for federal employment with better benefits.
Many Filipinos have joined the US military and become US citizens giving them the ability to petition family members and enjoy military benefits.
- Ease of travel
This is probably the least important in terms of the reasons for becoming a US citizen but interestingly, some Filipinos carry pride in holding US passport in traveling to other countries.
Certainly, there are more than these five reasons to apply for US citizenship. The motivation may be toward immigration integration but it does not take out the “Filipino” in the immigrant. In the United States, a Filipino who is a US citizen is still perceived as part of the Filipino minority group.
In success or failure, the Filipino naturalized US citizen will still be perceived as a Filipino in his adopted land.
(The author may be reached at [email protected], facebook.com/tancincolaw, www.tancinco.com or  721-1963)
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