You kind of know that both statuses allow people who move to the U.S. to live and work there with long-term rights. However, while holding a lawful permanent residence (green card) is one thing, being a U.S. citizen is totally another. So, let’s find out what the differences between green card and citizenship are.
A person can achieve permanent U.S. residency by applying to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. He/she should provide documentation that demonstrates applicant’s intent to stay in U.S. long-term. Now, its time to understand what are the eligible grounds for permanent residency. Some of the most common cases are:
- Marriage to a U.S. citizen
- Asylum or refugee status
- Sponsored employment
- Work with humanitarian programs
Once approved the resident receives a permanent resident card, known as green card. And may lawfully reside in America until the underlying terms are violated or end.
So, what are the rights that come with a green card?
- it allows to work and live in the U.S. permanently
- travel and come back to the U.S.
- petition for other family members to obtain the same status
It is important to note that there are restrictions when it comes to traveling. If one is absent from the United States for more than the allowed period, abandonment of legal residency can ensue. A person can be even refused to reenter the United States. Another thing which permanent residents are not allowed is to voting in U.S. elections.
While legal residency is basically a guarantees not being deported, it can still happen. If an immigrant violates any of the terms of residency, he/she might be subjected to arrest and deportation. Such violations include failing to report an address change, engaging in crime, terrorism or espionage.
A permanent residency is no way synonymous with citizenship. In contrast to a green card owner, one who becomes a U.S. citizen has the rights, duties, and obligations as anyone born and living in America. So, let’s learn more about that.
Now, when one finally becomes a U.S. citizen here are the rights to take advantage of.
- The right to vote in federal and state elections
- Petitioning to bring a family member to the U.S.
- The right to grant a citizenship to a child born abroad
- Having a U.S. passport (a number of countries allow visa-free travel for U.S. citizens)
- The right to federal employment
- Ability to become an elected official
As a U.S. citizen one has no restrictions on time spent outside of the United States. Therefore, will not face inadmissibility issues or have to require a reentry permit. Another benefit is that many government grants and scholarships are available to U.S. citizens only.
Ones someone becomes a U.S. citizen he/she is not subjected to deportation, unlike green card holders. However, it could happen when the applicant committed fraud during the application process.
After 5 years of good legal standing, a green card holder has the right to apply for U.S. citizenship. The applicant has to prove that he/she resided in the U.S. for a necessary period of time. Being proficient in English is also a requirement. The applicant must also continuously reside in the U.S. during the naturalization process, which can last from six months to two years.
There’s More to Citizenship
Okay, you now know how a green card holder can eventually acquire citizenship. But what are the other ways of becoming a U.S. citizen? Here they are.
- Simply being born in the United States
- Being born outside of United States but to a parent who holds U.S. citizenship
- Residing in the United States as a child when a parent undergoes naturalization
- Joining the United States military
Those were mainly the benefits. Now, what about the obligations that any U.S. citizen has? First, he/she must swear to renounce allegiance to other nation or sovereignty. Then, a citizen will also need to take an oath to support the U.S. Constitution and its laws. And finally, promise to serve the United States military if necessary.
With Which One to Settle?
When the main differences between green card and citizenship are cleared up, there still remains one point. Which one to chose? And the answer is fairly simple. First, consider that no matter what your long-term goals are, you always should apply for green card before citizenship. However, if as a permanent resident you wish to keep strong ties to your homeland, property, business outside of U.S., then citizenship isn’t quite necessary. But if you have firmly decided for the U.S. to be your new home once and for all, then citizenship is the best option.
Generally, it gets quite tricky for people to tell the differences between green card and citizenship in all details. Some might know the main distinctions but will scratch their head when asked about specific right and obligations. But you’re not going to be one of those after this post, aren’t you?