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Immigration Law Blog

Blog on immigration law information, issues and news.

The Differences Between Having a Green Card and Being a Citizen

What is the difference between a U.S. Green Card and U.S. Citizenship?

When it comes to the immigration process in the United States of America it is very

important to know the difference between a green card and citizenship. A lawful permanent

resident, or also referred to as a ‘green card holder,’ is identified as a person who has been

lawfully admitted for permanent residence within the United States. The permanent resident is

therefore given a ‘green card’ which provides officials with a photo ID and immigration status

on that individual. A green card essentially gives the permanent resident the right to reside, work,

study, and own property within the United States. U.S. Citizenship is granted to those who have

been born in the United States, born to U.S. citizen parents, or through naturalization. U.S.

citizens are given the right to permanently reside, work, study, and own property in the United

States. Though both permanent residents and U.S. citizens share many similar rights they also

differ in limitations.

The first thing to understand about a lawful permanent resident is that they ARE NOT a

U.S. citizen. There are several requirements in which a person must fulfill in order to obtain

lawful permanent residence within the United States. In order to be eligible for a green card you

must show that you are:

  • An immediate relative of a U.S. citizen (spouse, unmarried child under the age of 21,

    parent of U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old)

  • An asylee or refugee

  • A human trafficking or crime victim

  • A victim of abuse (abused spouse, child or parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident)

Another way to obtain a green card is to apply for the Diversity Visa Lottery or better

known as the ‘green-card lottery.’

Once you have obtained your green card you are entitled to several benefits such as:

  • The right to work in the U.S.

  • The right to live in the U.S.

  • The right to travel within and outside the U.S. (not for more than a year at a time)

  • The right to sponsor relatives

  • The right to seek U.S. citizenship

As a permanent resident you also have several limitations such as:

  • Not having the right to vote in a U.S. election whether it be in a state or federal election.

A person can become a U.S. citizen in one of three ways: being born in the United States,

through parents who are U.S. citizens, or through naturalization after they have been a U.S. legal permanent resident for 3-5 years.

Several benefits of being a U.S. citizen include:

  • The right to work in the U.S. permanently

  • The right to live in the U.S. permanently

  • The right to travel within and outside the U.S. for any period of time

  • The right to sponsor relatives

  • The right to obtain a U.S. passport

  • The right to vote in any election whether it be a state or federal election

You can apply for permanent residency or citizenship if you believe that you meet the

requirements listed above. Once you have established what process to begin it is always wise

to consult with an immigration attorney. He/she will be better equipped to answer any

questions you may have about your immigration status.