What advice should new U.S. citizens follow?

In my Immigration Consultation® column this week, I congratulate and advise people who became new U.S. citizens.

Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before starting any procedure.

This is the column:

I have just been sworn in for citizenship, do I have to do any additional paperwork since I am an American citizen? --Martha Reyna

Becoming a U.S. citizen is a true privilege, and witnessing the moment when the people I help achieve that long-desired goal remains one of the fundamental reasons why I dedicate myself to my profession as an immigration attorney.

Wednesday, May 23, was a very special day, because after 10 years of being a permanent resident of the United States, one of my clients, Martha Reyna, became a citizen. I witnessed how she, along with nearly 4,500 immigrants, participated in a massive naturalization ceremony in the city of Los Angeles that will change their lives.

dr nelson castillo
Dr. Nelson A. Castillo with Martha Reyna, a new U.S. citizen.

The ceremony, organized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), was so emotional that U.S. Magistrate Judge Gail J. Standish, who presided over the ceremony, wept as she swore in the thousands of permanent residents from approximately 120 countries. At the conclusion of the ceremony, all of these individuals, accompanied by family and friends, left the convention center with a smile, a U.S. flag and a certificate proving that they are now U.S. citizens.

Congratulations to all the people who naturalized! Thanks are also due to the United States for continuing to welcome immigrants who have made and will continue to make this a better country.

But there are millions of permanent residents who should follow suit and take the initiative to become U.S. citizens, because it is the only way to secure a permanent stay in the country.

It is estimated that there are approximately 8.9 million and 9.3 million of permanent residents who may be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization.

Advice for new citizens

  1. Sign and carefully review your naturalization certificate.. They should immediately sign your naturalization certificate that you received from USCIS. Make sure your name, date of birth, alien number and photo appear correctly on the document. If your name has been changed, verify that your information is correct on the Petition for Name Change that you received with your naturalization certificate.
  1. Apply for your U.S. passport. They will need to complete Form DS-11, submit their original naturalization certificate and pay the appropriate fee to the U.S. Department of State. You can also apply for a U.S. passport for eligible children under the age of 18 who are permanent residents who obtained automatic U.S. citizenship based on their naturalization.
  1. Update your Social Security file. If you have changed your name or immigration status, you must report it to the U.S. Social Security to update your information and issue you a new Social Security card, if necessary. Your Social Security file should always be updated to avoid problems when applying for employment, Social Security benefits, or other federal and state government services.
  1. Register to vote. As a U.S. citizen, you have the responsibility and the right to vote in elections for our public representatives. You can register at several locations, including your local elections office and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Visit the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's web site to view information on how to register to vote in your state.
  1. Help family members legally immigrate to the United States. U.S. citizens may file family-based petitions for their parents, spouses, children and unmarried or married siblings. In addition, immigration law allows married children and siblings to bring their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21. They should file applications as soon as possible because many of these procedures take years to complete. In addition, the U.S. Congress has for years wanted to eliminate the right of citizens to petition for their parents, children over 21 and siblings.

Please consult with an immigration attorney for personalized legal advice before beginning any immigration proceedings.