Explanation: Know the difference between a green card holder and a US citizen



While many people often use the terms “permanent resident” and “citizen” interchangeably, there is a big difference between the two.

While a naturalized U.S. citizen will benefit from all rights granted by the U.S. Constitution, green card holders benefit from limited privileges.

So what does it mean to be a permanent resident of the United States?

Having resident status legally gives you permission to live in the country for a specified period and goes one step further by giving you the right to stay indefinitely. This means that you are no longer a tourist, but a legal foreigner in the country.

Permanent residents, however, still remain citizens of their home country, neither holding a US passport nor having the right to vote. Spending a year outside the United States can also put them in deportation proceedings, at the risk of being deported.

Permanent residents enjoy many privileges over tourists and immigrants:

  • They can bring with them members of their immediate family (spouse and minor children).
  • They can leave / enter the US at will without the risk of being refused by immigration officials.
  • They have the right to apply for government sponsored financial aid for educational purposes.
  • They have access to security clearances and exemptions from export restrictions.
  • They are eligible to receive social security benefits, additional security income and health insurance benefits.

Who is an American citizen?

People can become U.S. citizens by birth in the United States, through U.S. citizen parents, or through a process known as naturalization. Naturalization applies to those who were born in a foreign country and immigrated to the United States. They can apply for citizenship after acquiring permanent resident status.

If they are approved by the competent authorities, they become naturalized citizens.

What you can do as a citizen:

  • You get the right to vote.
  • You can run for a seat in the public service.
  • You become eligible for federal employee benefits.
  • You benefit from US tax laws.
  • You will not be subject to eviction.
  • You can ask your family members to join you in the United States.
  • You can sponsor your family members to get their Green Cards.

Permanent residents, after approximately 5 years, may be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Have a green card? Find out if you qualify for U.S. citizenship

You would be eligible for U.S. citizenship if …

  • You have continuously lived in the United States for at least five years since obtaining your Green Card.
  • You have lived in the United States for at least 30 months out of those five years.
  • You are at least 18 years old.
  • You have lived in the United States continuously from the time you complete Form N-400 until the time you become a United States citizen.
  • You can read, write and speak basic English.
  • You can take a basic US history and government questions test.
  • You have good character that reflects the values ​​of the US Constitution. USCIS reviews your naturalization application, your final interview, and whether you have a criminal record to decide if you have good character.



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