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What does it mean to be a citizen of the United States?

Undoubtedly, you had your reasons for deciding to come to the United States. You wanted a better or different life, and decided to settle here in Colorado. You got your green card, maybe got married and have settled into your life here. Now, as you reach the time where you can decide to pursue citizenship, you may be wondering what it means to be a United States citizen.

Citizens of this country enjoy many freedoms and also have numerous responsibilities, and many natural-born citizens may forget them periodically. However, as you embark on your quest to become a naturalized citizen, you may wonder about those rights and responsibilities and how obtaining them will change your life yet again.

Rights of a U.S. citizen

The U.S. constitution grants several rights to citizens, and what many would consider to be the most important ones include the following:

  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom of speech
  • The right to vote
  • The right to run for public office
  • The right to a speedy trial
  • The right to a fair trial
  • The right to apply for and obtain work for the federal government

In the infamous words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, as a citizen, you would have the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Responsibilities of U.S. citizens

In order to take advantage of those rights, U.S. citizens must also take on the following responsibilities:

  • Participate in the democratic process
  • Respect others' rights
  • Defend the country if called upon
  • Defend and support the Constitution
  • Respect the law
  • Pay taxes
  • Serve on a jury if called upon

Citizens are also called upon to be involved in their communities.

Joining the citizenry

If you have come to believe in and want to take on the responsibilities of being a U.S. citizen in order to enjoy the rights and freedoms of this country, you must first meet some basic requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be a permanent resident for five years, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen
  • Be able to read, write and speak English
  • Be able to pass the citizenship test

Meeting these basic qualifications is only the beginning of the process. You must fill out an application, attend an interview and pass the required background checks, among other things. The naturalization process may feel daunting and you may worry that the process won't go smoothly. An immigration attorney could help you determine whether you are ready to pursue becoming a U.S. citizen and then help you meet all of the requirements to do so.

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