Earlier this week, President Barack Obama presented the State of the Union Address.  The State of the Union Address is meant to inform the American people of the direction in which the President hopes to lead the country in the coming year.  Some may find it inspiring, some may be discouraged. 

As in prior years, and prior speeches, the President called for immigration reform.  There seems to be a consensus between the President, many members of Congress, and the public, that immigration reform is needed. Perhaps this year there will finally be meaningful action to improve the country’s immigration laws.

 Most American citizens can vote in elections for representatives at all levels of government.  Our voices can be heard based on our votes. 

 For those who want to make a life here, gaining eligibility to vote is perhaps the most important reason to become a US citizen.  Citizenship provides the opportunity to be involved.

 A threshold requirement which must be met in order to apply for naturalization to US citizenship is the duration of time during which a person has held US permanent residence.  Typically, for an employment-based permanent resident, the period of time is 5 years, along with a  2.5 year physical presence requirement.  For others, the permanent residence and physical presence requirements may be less.  And, there are of course other eligibility criteria such as being of good moral character, being able to read and write basic English, and several more.  

 There are many “pros” and perhaps for some people, a few “cons” to naturalizing.  One may want to consider such things as the ability to sponsor certain relatives for US permanent residence, there may be tax issues to consider, survivor benefits, and lots of other things to that can affect this important decision.  In the end, however, having a right to vote is a privilege that may outweigh all else.  

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Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild. She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.