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The Economic Value of Citizenship for Immigrants in the United States

The Economic Value of Citizenship for Immigrants in the United States, by Madeleine Sumption and Sarah Flamm, Migration Policy Institute, Carneige Corporation, September 2012

  • Citizenship is widely recognized as an important symbol of full membership and participation in society. By naturalizing, immigrants receive a range of rights and prerogatives available only to citizens. Naturalized citizens can vote and run for public office; they receive protection from deportation and from losing their residence rights; and they enjoy other rights, such as the ability to bring family members more quickly to the United States, full access to public benefits, and visa-free travel to many countries. Surveys suggest that political and social rights — particularly the right to vote — are the primary motivation for naturalizing, alongside the desire for a sense of belonging. However, citizenship is also thought to provide economic benefits, including access to job opportunities that are not open to noncitizens. Certain government jobs and licensed professions require citizenship (the vast majority of immigrants holding public-sector jobs are naturalized). And some employers may treat citizenship as a signal of good integration into US society or otherwise discriminate against noncitizens when hiring. This report analyzes the impact of naturalization on immigrants, as well as the motivations for seeking citizenship and the barriers to doing so.”
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