Should You Get U.S. Citizenship if You Marry an American Citizen?
This is an Individual Decision
The simple answer to this question is that it depends upon the needs and desires of each individual in question.
There can be both advantages and disadvantages to becoming an American citizen depending upon a person's individual situation.
With this in mind, I will present some of my observations and opinions on this subject based upon my reading and talks with people.
As I have stated in the past when writing about tax and immigration issues, I am presenting general information here and not advice for specific individual circumstances.
The act of getting married itself requires a certain leap of faith in that each partner is tying their future to that of the other and trusting that the marriage will last and the dreams they each share will be realized.
In addition, one partner is also legally cutting some of their ties to their native land which means that they stand to lose even more should the marriage fail.
This, of course, assumes that the non-American's objective is love and not simply a desire to live in the United States.
Some of the Advantages of Applying for American Citizenship
If the couple plans to live in the United States, there are a number of advantages in obtaining U.S. citizenship by the non-American spouse.
First of all, since the couple is residing in the U.S., citizenship allows the non-American spouse the opportunity to participate fully in American life and society.
In most cases, it also ensures that the non-American spouse will not be forced to leave the country at some point in the future.
A person can live in the U.S. as a legal non-citizen resident and does not have to become a citizen in order to stay here.
However, laws can change and a future administration could decide not to renew a non-citizen's legal residence status when it expires.
While such a situation is unlikely, it should be remembered that laws and administrative processes can be changed with greater ease than can rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
Another, and more serious, concern is the possibility of being deported for breaking the law.
Most people are law abiding, however, given that we have a Congress that routinely passes thousand page laws without reading, let alone understanding, them it is not surprising that people can break the law without knowing it.
Take our current Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geitner, who, supposedly out of ignorance, failed to pay his Social Security and Medicare taxes (which I believe is a felony and therefore grounds for deportation in the case of a legal resident).
Also in has capacity as the employer of a nanny for his children, he failed to pay the employer's portion of the nanny's Social Security and Medicare taxes.
If the person in charge of enforcing U.S. tax laws can supposedly innocently (as he claimed) violate the tax laws what are the odds of the average citizen running afoul of some obscure law?
If you have children born to you after your marriage they will, under current law, more than likely automatically be U.S. citizens.
If your children are born on U.S. soil they will automatically be citizens regardless of whether or not you are a citizen and if they are born outside of the U.S. while you are legally married to a U.S. citizen they will, under most circumstances, automatically be U.S. citizens.
This being the case, your family will be citizens and the children will more than likely continue to reside in the U.S. if they are raised here.
Then there are tax considerations. Anyone, citizen or not, who earns money in the U.S. has to pay income taxes on that money as well as Medicare and Social Security taxes if it is wage income. U.S. citizens also have to pay income taxes on all money they earn anywhere in the world.
From what I understand, our infamous Federal death tax treats non-citizen surviving spouses of citizens differently than citizen spouses.
For citizen spouses the first million dollars or so of property is exempt from the Federal death tax (a few states have a similar death tax and I don't know what their rules are).
But in the case of a non-citizen surviving spouse of a citizen, from everything I have read, it appears that the Federal death tax applies to all property left by the citizen spouse (including overseas property) without any exemption.
As to Social Security and Medicare, both of which are on the verge of financial collapse, there is the possibility that Congress could in the future try to keep these programs going a little longer by denying benefits to non-citizens even though the non-citizen has paid into the program.
Possible Disadvantages of Applying for American Citizenship
The first possible disadvantage would be if the marriage didn't work and you decide to return to your homeland you may have problems returning if you have become and American and renounced your native citizenship.
The U.S. does require you to renounce your native citizenship when you become and American citizen. Some nations recognize this renunciation and others don't.
Taxes can also be a problem because if a citizen leaves the country and keeps their U.S. citizenship they have to continue to pay U.S. income taxes on their world wide income.
It is a felony to ignore your U.S. tax obligations and the U.S. has treaties with many nations that allows the U.S. authorities to extradite to the U.S. for prosecution, citizens who don't pay their taxes.
Finally, in the case of wealthy people it can sometimes be difficult to easily renounce U.S. citizenship and move abroad as the authorities can refuse to accept such a renunciation for up to ten years during which the people are forced to continue paying U.S. income taxes despite having left the country.
America is a Great Nation But Decision to Become a Citizen is an Individual One
America is a wonderful nation and throughout its history has attracted many people by offering them freedom and opportunity. Despite taxes and the continuing avalanche of new laws, America is still a land of freedom and opportunity.
For the most part, for those who choose to marry an American citizen and move here, it makes sense to become a citizen.
It can also make sense to become an American citizen if one marries a U.S. citizen who is living abroad and both decide to continue living abroad although in that case you may want to seek financial guidance from a good lawyer who is an expert on U.S. tax law.
Either way the final decision on whether to seek U.S. citizenship or not is an individual decision which you and your spouse will have to make based upon your individual circumstances and desires.
Links to Some of My Other Hubs
- How About a Romantic Breakfast?
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- How to Become a U S Citizen
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- How to Show Love for Step Children
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- Bringing Your Foreign Fiancée to the U S
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- Economic Consequences of Divorce
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- The Social Security System's Achilles Heel
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- Rolling Stones Prove Tax Cuts Work
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