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Do I have to give up my passport after I get married to a U.S. citizen and get a Green Card?

No, you do not have to give up your passport on becoming a legal permanent resident, and your nationality doesn’t change.

My wife passed away four years ago from leukemia, leaving me with our two young children. I am a software engineer and a naturalized U.S. citizen. I sponsored my parents for Green Cards so they could help me raise my kids. Unfortunately, I lost my job a year ago, and I found it hard to support my parents and children. I asked my parents to apply for medical and move into subsidized senior housing. My father has a work permit and earns enough to live independently with my mother. However, I am concerned because I had signed an affidavit of financial support for five years, and all this has happened within that period. How does this change in liability affect my family?

I am sorry about your wife. When you signed the affidavit of support (form I-864), you accepted legal responsibility for financially supporting your parents. Form I-864 is a legally binding commitment to act as the financial sponsor of your parent(s), and once they are in the U.S., your financial responsibility continues until they are either credited with 40 quarters (usually 10 years) of work or until they become U.S. citizens. In particular, pay close attention to section 8 of Form I-864.

Clearly, you may be able to argue that your “new” circumstances prevent you from being able to fully support them. Please keep in mind that if someone has somehow managed to get Medicaid/Medical by not revealing all the facts, in the event of a large claim, the government can investigate and actually send the bills to the sponsor for reimbursement.

What are the advantages of becoming a U.S. citizen?

The new immigration law severely limits public benefits for legal permanent residents, and who knows what future laws will bring? With full citizenship, these limits disappear.

Citizens have much greater ability to sponsor relatives for U.S. immigration. Many government contracts and jobs require U.S. citizenship. One cannot get a voting card without becoming a citizen.

A citizen does not generally have to reside in the U.S. By contrast, Green Card holders can have their Legal Permanent Resident status revoked if they fail to reside in the U.S., unless they have requested preservation of permanent residency. If you become naturalized, you do not have to worry about replacing your Green Card with newer versions.

Only citizens can take out U.S. passports, and any countries waive visa requirements for U.S. passport holders.

U.S. citizens also do not have to carry proof of citizenship. On the other hand, CIS feels that permanent residents must always carry their Green Cards. CIS has detained permanent residents who forgot to carry their cards.

Finally, there are intangible benefits. Many Green Card holders have decided that the U.S. is the permanent home for their families, and those individuals may find it psychologically beneficial to be on equal footing with their American-citizen peers. This is important for school-age children concerned with their identity.

Immigration and business attorney Indu Liladhar-Hathi has an office in San Jose. (408) 453-5335.