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Becoming a citizen can help prevent travel problems, deportation

No matter what your political view, it's hard to argue that the first couple of weeks of the Trump administration has caused confusion and concern among people coming into or returning to this country as well as their family, friends and employers. The president issued an executive order that resulted in people coming to the U.S. from seven countries in the Middle East being detained or sent back. The order affected those traveling from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.

Some of those who were prevented from getting past customs at the airport were green card holders. These are lawful permanent residents of the U.S. Many work and/or go to school here. In 2014, the U.S. had about 13 million residents here on a green card.

Shortly after the executive order was signed, the Department of Homeland Security said that green card holders from the seven designated countries were barred from re-entering the United States. The White House, however, said that their cases would be decided on an individual basis. Later, the administration said that green card holders from these countries didn't need a waiver.

On Feb. 4, however, a federal judge blocked the executive order, and DHS suspended its enforcement of the ban. What happens next is still to be determined.

With or without the executive order, green card holders aren't guaranteed residency in our country. Those convicted of a number of types of crime (from theft to murder) can be deported. Those who leave the U.S. for at least a year have to apply for a permit to re-enter the country.

With the uncertainty that lies ahead with the new administration, some immigration lawyers are urging their green-card clients to become citizens when they're eligible to do so. People must have had a green card for five years to seek naturalization. If they're married to a U.S. citizen, the requirement is three years.

The immigration and naturalization process is a complicated one, and laws are always subject to change. An experienced Georgia immigration attorney can provide guidance as you take the necessary steps to become a U.S. citizen.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "'Green card' holders advised to seek citizenship as soon as eligible," Earl Rinehart, Feb. 05, 2017

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