Differences Between a Green Card and a Citizenship
Sometimes, there can be uncertainty after achieving a goal. After becoming a green card holder, or legal permanent resident, you must wait 5 years (3 years, if you are married to a US citizen) to apply for a US citizenship. The process is called naturalization, and you can apply with form N-400 to get your US citizenship if you meet every requirement.
Often we focus on how to achieve a goal without fully understanding the benefits of achieving the goal. In past posts, we have focused on how and when you can apply for U.S. citizenship. We have explained the naturalization process and how to complete form N-400 if you meet every requirement. We have also explained how after becoming a “green card holder” (officially known as legal permanent resident), to apply for U.S. Citizenship you must wait 5 years, or 3 years if you became a legal permanent resident through your spouse. Now we will explain the benefits of becoming a Legal Permanent Resident.
So, what is the difference between US Citizenship and a Legal Permanent Residency? We will start with what rights and privileges U.S. Citizenship confers and then compare it to lawful permanent residence.
What is US Citizenship?
US citizenship means holding the status of citizen of the United States. The following is a list of some of the many benefits of US citizenship:
- You cannot be deported. You will have the same immigration rights as any US-born citizen.
- You can travel for short trips without a visa to many countries. You can also look for help or protection from US embassies or consulates abroad if needed.
- You may apply for public benefits available only to US citizens.
- Your children may also derive U.S. citizenship. Make sure you register their birth certificate at a US embassy or consulate if born outside the United States.
- You can file immigration petitions for your other family members, such as parents, siblings, and married adult children.
- You can vote! It is both a right and a duty to take part in the country’s democracy for any US election. As a citizen, you can also be eligible for government jobs.
What does it mean to be a Green Card holder?
Whether you obtained a Green Card before or after entering the U.S., being a permanent resident means you can settle in the U.S., permanently. Here are some of the main benefits of being a Lawful Permanent Resident:
- You do not have to give up your native citizenship.
- You can live in the US indefinitely if you do not break certain laws.
- You can have easier entry to the US.
- You do not need to apply for a work permit anymore – having your green card updated means you can legally work.
- You may spend less on tuition and education.
- After some time, you can apply for a US citizenship!
What are the differences?
Although with a green card you can apply for your family members to get a Green Card, too, you do not get the priority or immediate eligibility for the process as if you were a US Citizen. Although you can travel with both documents, your citizenship provides perks in the process, while having a Green Card makes it easier compared to if you did not have a legal status.
A big deterrent for applying for a US Citizenship is the fear of losing your native citizenship, however, applying for naturalization does not mean you will as most countries usually allow up to 2 citizenships. In general, having US citizenship as opposed to a only lawful permanent residence means you have more rights in the U.S.
At the end of the day, the decision to what legal status you should have will depend solely on you and your circumstances, but if you’d like to consult with an experienced attorney that can help you decide what is the best course of action for you, schedule a meeting with us! The J. Molina Law Firm is an accomplished immigration law firm, and we excel at customer service. We would like to assist you with your case, and if you have any question or doubt, do not waste any time and call us today at 469-708-5800.