Many people living in North Carolina are immigrants with green cards. While this “permanent residency” status allows individuals to live and work in the United States, it does not give them the same rights that citizens have, including the right to vote.

An increased number of permanent residents living in the United States have recently taken an interest in taking the next step and applying for citizenship. Their reasons vary but often include a desire for permanency and, for those who are married to an American citizen or have family members in the United States, a guarantee against being separated from loved ones.

Some permanent residents are also interested in participating in the United States political process. Becoming a citizen allows them to do this by voting on issues that matter to them as well as in public office elections. After all, these long-term permanent residents are deeply affected by laws, regulations and the decisions of elected officials. Finally, some permanent residents may also appreciate the benefits of being able to travel on a U.S. passport.

Making the transition from permanent resident to citizen requires completing an application and a wait of around two years before taking the citizenship exam. After passing the exam, and meeting the eligibility requirements, the resident can participate in the citizenship ceremony.

An undertaking such as pursuing citizenship can be stressful and confusing. Permanent residents and their families may benefit from consulting with an experienced immigration attorney. The lawyer could review the applicant’s circumstances and make recommendations in regard to filing applications and moving forward with the process.