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

While both the Green Card and U.S. citizenship confer rights to reside and work in the United States legally, they mean very different things. A Green Card holder or lawful permanent resident (LPR) is someone who has been granted the right to live in the United States indefinitely and is given a photo ID commonly known as Green Card that proves their status.

Green Card rights and duties

  • Permanent residents have the right to work and live in the U.S. indefinitely, as well as the right to petition for close family members for a Green Card.
  • However, because Green Card's relatives are considered preference relatives, this process takes considerably longer than for a U.S. citizen.
  • Permanent residents continue to be the citizens of another country, which means they do not have the right to a U.S. passport.
  • Lawful permanent residents do not have the right to vote in U.S. elections and may lose their status if U.S. government considers they have abandoned their status, by spending more than 6 months outside the United States, for example.
  • If a lawful permanent resident plans on leaving the U.S. for a period exceeding 1 year, they must first obtain a permit if they do not wish to abandon their status.
  • After a certain amount of time, permanent residents can apply for U.S. citizenship, also known as the naturalization process.

U.S. Citizenship rights and responsibilities

U.S. Citizenship is a status that entails specific rights, duties, and benefits, usually acquired by birth:

  • A U.S. Citizen has the right to live and work in the United States and to receive federal assistance.
  • Individuals can become U.S. citizens by birth, through U.S. citizen parents, or through the process known as naturalization.
  • A U.S. citizen is eligible to receive a U.S. passport, which is issued by the U.S. State department.
  • Many countries allow visa-free travel for U.S. citizens.
  • A U.S. citizen may also leave and reenter the U.S. at any time without being subject to the grounds of inadmissibility or require a re-entry permit.
  • U.S. citizens can also vote in U.S. federal and local elections, hold certain government jobs, and serve on juries.
  • Many federal and state government grants, scholarships and benefits are available only to U.S. citizens.
  • U.S. citizens may also petition on behalf of relatives to immigrate to the United States.
  • Unlike Green Card holders, U.S. citizens cannot be deported from the United States – unless, that is, they committed fraud to obtain their green card or citizenship.

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