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Rights and Responsibilities of U.S. Citizens

As a citizen of the United States, you are afforded a number of rights and protections. However, with these rights come responsibilities. Understanding your rights and responsibilities as a U.S. citizen is critical, especially as you navigate your journey toward naturalization. In this comprehensive guide, you will learn more about the fundamental rights granted to all citizens of the U.S. as well as the responsibilities that come hand-in-hand with these liberties.


Whether you were born with citizenship or obtained it through the naturalization process, being a U.S. citizen means having your fundamental freedoms protected at the highest level. Several significant examples of the rights you will be afforded as a U.S. citizen include:

  • The Right to Live in the United States: As a U.S. citizen, you have the right to live within the United States without limitations or the fear of being deported (except in some extreme circumstances). No state can bar you from entry or residence based solely on your U.S. citizenship. This right protects you from being forced to leave the United States against your will, unlike non-citizens who can be deported if immigration laws are violated. In other words, this residential right is especially meaningful in comparison to the conditional statuses of non-citizen visa holders, refugees, asylees, and undocumented immigrants, whose ability to remain in the country can be revoked for various reasons.
  • The Right to Vote: The right to vote is guaranteed to all U.S. citizens 18 and older. This right allows you to participate in elections and have a say in choosing your representatives and elected officials at all levels of government. This includes your city council, your state legislature, Congress, and even the President. This is an important right as it is not granted to all immigration statuses and it allows you to participate in choosing representatives who reflect your values and priorities. It is important to note that there are a few ways to lose this right, such as if you are a convicted felon in certain states.
  • The Right to Run for Public Office: U.S. citizenship not only allows you to vote for political candidates, but also to run for public office yourself. Election laws vary, but they generally allow citizens meeting residency requirements to seek elected positions at the federal level, Senate, state, and local offices. This ability for citizens to run for leadership roles is an excellent opportunity for naturalized citizens to contribute to their community and directly influence government policies.
  • The Right to Petition for Family Members: Once you have become a U.S. citizen, you have the authority to petition for certain family members to obtain lawful permanent residence (also known as a green card) in the United States. You will be able to advocate for any immediate relatives including your spouse, children, and parents. This unique right offered to U.S. citizens helps to promote family reunification, allowing families separated by borders to live together in the U.S. 


With the rights and freedoms granted to U.S. citizens come significant responsibilities. It is not enough to simply enjoy your rights - you must also uphold your civic duties. Some of the most critical responsibilities that come with being a U.S. citizen include:

  • Obeying the Law: As a U.S. citizen, you must abide by all federal, state, and local laws. When you become a U.S. citizen through the naturalization process, you take an Oath of Allegiance to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States.” This includes everything from respecting traffic laws and paying taxes, to staying away from criminal acts such as theft, violence, fraud, or drug crimes. While it is rare for a naturalized U.S. citizen to be deported for breaking the law, it is crucial to stay on the right side of the law.
  • Serving on a Jury: If called upon, U.S. citizens must serve on a jury. This requirement allows citizens to participate in the U.S. justice system and promotes fair trials. As a citizen, you may be called to serve as a jury member in a criminal case, civil litigation, or other matters. Although jury duty may seem like an inconvenience, failing to show up when called for can lead to serious legal consequences.
  • Pay Taxes: All U.S. citizens must pay federal, state, and local taxes. This law applies even to citizens currently living outside of the U.S. Taxes are a critical component of U.S. society and help fund government programs such as schools, hospitals, and other public benefits. Failing to pay taxes can result in serious penalties such as garnished wages, property liens, and potential criminal charges. 
  • Defending the Country: At the moment, U.S. citizens are not required to serve in the military. However, in times of national crisis or war, citizens must be willing to defend the country. The Selective Service system requires all men in the U.S., including naturalized citizens, to register at age 18. This system remains in place should the need for conscription arise in the future. It should be noted that this responsibility may not be relevant for some citizens with dual nationality.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, being a U.S. citizen is an important privilege that comes with many rights and responsibilities. Simply put, it is not just about what rights you are granted when you become a naturalized citizen - it is also about how you can contribute to your community and country. If you are interested in becoming a U.S. citizen but aren’t sure where to start, it is essential to consult with an experienced immigration attorney. Get connected today at Attorney At Law.

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