By Dr. Maria G. Hernandez
Latina Cubicle Confidential™
According to the Pew Hispanic Research Center two-thirds of legal Mexican immigrants have not become citizens. It means that 5.4 million immigrants who could enjoy the benefits of citizenship have not completed the process.
The rate of naturalization for legal Mexican immigrants is 36%–one of the lowest rates among immigrant groups. It is widely thought that the cost of becoming a citizen — almost $700 — can be a factor, as well as, the process of completing citizenship can be a challenge.
For some, just the idea of passing the test required is the biggest hurdle.
So what about you?
If you came to the US as a child and already have legal status and think there is no need to rush to become a citizen — think again. While you cannot be denied a job — except for some that involve federally required security clearances — it can hurt your career.
There are both practical and some office politics to consider.
If you work for a multinational firm, the opportunity to work in restricted roles and travel for assignments may pose a problem for you. Your employer may worry that if you encounter difficulties abroad, you may not necessarily get all the help you need from that region’s US embassy.
It is a risk your employer may not want to take and thus you may find key assignments off limits. As your career advances, your employer may address it directly with you or it becomes one more unspoken factor that hurts your long-term opportunities. The likelihood that these advanced roles may also have higher salaries cannot be underestimated, too.
The office politics about being a naturalized citizen can be much more difficult to navigate. In one of my consulting assignments for a large multinational company, a manager suggested that he could determine how serious a new hire was about staying with the company by looking at how long they let their car have out-of-state license plates.
His approach was not to invest much in a new hire unless he knew they were serious about staying. In this kind of environment, your lack of status as a citizen may communicate something you never intended. Similarly, it is well known that becoming a naturalized citizen takes effort.
If you have lived in the US well passed the minimum of 5 years to become a citizen, it may also send a message that you somehow avoid long-term projects.
If you remain uncomfortable with the idea of becoming a US citizen because you will be required to give up citizenship to your homeland, you may want to explore the benefits of dual citizenship. México, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Beliz, El Salvador, Colombia, and Perú allow for dual citizenship.
The reality of a global economy is increasingly recognizing that our ability to navigate multiple cultures is a true career asset.
Tell me about your journey to citizenship at Latina Cubicle Confidential™ or join me live at the next LatinaVIDA™.
Dr. Maria G. Hernandez has 20 years experience consulting in both the United States and Mexico to senior executives in Fortune 50 companies and facilitated change initiatives for elected officials and their staff. She has worked in academia, business, nonprofits, technology startups, and public agencies. For more information, visit Latina Cubicle Confidential™ on Facebook or on Twitter @SavvyLatinaInfo.