Citizenship or Permanent Residency?

You happen to graduate from a school in the United States, and you have everything that you can only dream of. But sooner or later you’ll know that you have to leave that dream behind just in case something happens with your immigration matters. The only way to stay there is to get a citizenship or apply for a permanent residency. What are the benefits of each, and what are the downsides?

Last week, a relative of mine, living for the past twenty years in the United States, declined an offer for an American citizenship, for the third time during his stay in the United States. He’s been living in the States right after he graduated high school, where he attended a university to study computing and network security, a highly sought-after degree back then, when internet and computers were strangers to most people in the world, even in the US itself. Turns out, twenty years after that, many companies, from small-fry mom-and-pop businesses to companies with GDP’s outnumbering most third world countries still needs his knowledge. After all, he owned his own internet security firm together with three American colleagues. So far, he told me his clientele includes Qwest, a giant communications company in the American Midwest and even a huge military base in the city he lived in. Makes sense why America wanted him so badly.

Why did he decline the offer? He told me, he doesn’t want to jeopardize his return to his homeland, halfway around the world in Asia. American citizens has their own benefits, he said, such as traveling to many countries in the world without a pre-departure visa, which is a big hassle these days especially thanks to the trigger-happy, pyromaniac radicals that call themselves freedom fighters. It was looking good so far until he said the usual ‘what if’ question: What if America decided to wage war on his homeland and he had no means to return back?

Back to that question, he thinks that it’s better to get a ‘green card’, a permanent residency in the United States even though those things are not easy to get. An offer for a citizenship could take less time than fighting your way to get a green card, and you will end up blowing more cash out of your coffers to pay for an immigration lawyer, especially the real good one with a good reputation of allowing Uncle Sam to give its not-so-green-card to people from around the world longing to live the American dream.

Permanent residency was an alternative to citizenship to many, especially for people from countries that did not recognize dual citizenship. You enjoy the same rights as the citizens from the host country (even the privilege of lining up with the countries’ citizens on the airports. For comparison an average time to clear customs and immigration in the US took two hours tops for foreigners, fifteen to thirty minutes for US citizens and permanent residents) But the problem is, it’s not easy to get. For example the ubiquitous US Green Card. The only way to get it is to win a Green Card Lottery, hold every year by the US government, or get yourself a sponsor in the United States. But back to what I have told you before. It was not easy to get.

As the name implies, winning a Green Card Lottery is exactly like trying to win the National Lottery. You register for a number to compete with the other fifty million hopefuls from around the world, and at the end a computer (might be the one that my cousin maintained, who knows) will shuffle the numbers and get about a million random numbers. And the lucky numbers will win a piece of paper glued to the visa page on your passport telling you, “Congratulations, you are a permanent resident of the United States. From now on you can find a job, put your kids in school for free or with a cheaper price tag, and you need to pay taxes. But sorry, you can’t vote.”

Sponsorship? Easy to get, if you’re seriously extra-ordinary. If you have something that anybody else in America doesn’t have, for example if you’re a miracle worker that can cure AIDS, welcome to America. If you happen to be somebody with no special abilities, better try the lottery. But there are cases where a sponsorship is not that hard to get, for example if you happen to attend a good school like Harvard or Yale and you happen to be on top of the class. Wow, those big dogs with big money are seriously going to gun down for you. But hey, the whole point of getting a green card or a citizenship is mainly to feed your family in your home country. Getting to Harvard or Yale with no money is simply like begging for money in the streets in New York, except if you win a scholarship, that is.

In conclusion, a permanent residency would grant you almost the same rights as the citizens, only that you don’t get their travel privileges and you can’t vote, which is very crucial for politically-conscious people who wanted easier tax rebates for immigrants or simply more rights. And the good thing is you got to keep your passport (and your citizenship). Citizenship gets every right of a citizen would get, including a right to be voted to political positions, but, in case something happens, things would get really complicated. So if you really wanted to stay in a prosperous country, and you got that choice, better think about it hard.

Citizenship or Permanent Residency?
By: Reva Wibowo

2 thoughts on “Citizenship or Permanent Residency?”

  1. i can put myself on your cousin’s shoes. and, i agree that the green card is better than the citizenship. i mean, you know, i do care for the politics in the land i live in, but, for god’s sake, if i had a chance to live in america, regardless whether i can vote or not, i’ll say yes. lol

    hi five!

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