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Difference between a U.S. Green Card and U.S. Citizenship

Home » Immigration Help & Resources » Difference between a U.S. Green Card and U.S. Citizenship

The United States has always been a melting pot for vast ethnicities and cultures. While America was built on a foundation of immigrants, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement has restrictions to who and how many immigrants can legally enter the U.S. a year, and the legal status they can receive.

Most people are confused by the difference between green card holders and citizenship; while both groups share some similarities, they are very different.

The Main Difference Between Citizenship & A Green Card

U.S. citizens have the right to live in the United States forever and the right to vote.

Green Card holders, also known as permanent residents, are allowed to live in the United States for as long as their green card is valid and they do not commit any crimes that are grounds for deportation.

Permanent Residents and/or Green Card Holders

After someone has immigrated to the United States, legal permanent residency is the first necessary step. Being a valid green card holder means that the person has lawful rights to work and permanently reside in the United States.

Permanent residents, or green card holders, ARE NOT citizens.

There are different ways that someone can obtain lawful permanent residency:

  1. A spouse, family member, or employer can sponsor (submit a visa petition) the immigrant.
  2. After receiving refugee status or asylum.
  3. Or winning the diversity visa lottery (offered in most countries).

Once legal residency has been obtained, the immigrant receives a green photo identification card that allows them to:

  • Work and live in the United States permanently
  • Travel and return the United States
  • Petition for other family members to receive green card status

While legal residency does, for the most part, grant you asylum from deportation, violation of any of the terms of residency (such as failure to report address changes, committing crimes, and/or acts of terrorism or espionage) are grounds for arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and could result in deportation.

Green card holders are permitted to travel and return to the United States, but they are restricted on the amount of time that they can be away. Being outside of the United States for over the permitted amount of time could result in abandonment of their legal residency, and they can be rejected to reenter the United States.

United States Citizenship

Under the United States Immigration Law, U.S. Citizenship is the highest status of citizenship that someone can attain. U.S. Citizens are permitted to live in the United States indefinitely, and are not subject to grounds of deportation that affect green card holders. The only way to revoke an immigrant’s citizenship is if the immigrant committed fraud when they were applying.

U.S. citizens have the same rights as green card holders, but they are also allowed to:

  • Vote in elections
  • Petition for a distant relatives and in-laws to be granted asylum

After 5 or more years of good legal standing, the green card holder can apply for U.S. citizenship (naturalization). Other ways of becoming and United States citizen include:

  1. Being born in the United States
  2. Being born overseas to a United States Citizen parent
  3. Living in the United States as a child when a parent undergoes naturalization
  4. Joining the United States military

Permanent residents are required to reapply for their legal status/green cards OR citizenships 10 years after receiving their green cards. This will be required every 10 years until they decide to become U.S. citizens or until they are denied permanent residence at any point.

There are a number of important forms for US citizenship you need to print and fill in to apply and a US citizenship test that must be passed.

If you or your loved one is currently trying to obtain lawful residency, or if you have questions about the United States immigration system, please contact U.S. Immigration Bonds and Insurance Services. U.S. Immigration Bonds is a nationwide immigration bail bonds company. We specialize in immigration bail bonds and have ties with immigration attorneys across the United States.

Permanent Residents / Green Card Holders Can Be Deported

Legal permanent residents can be deported if they commit any crimes or actions that are considered grounds for deportation. The most common grounds for deportation are marriage fraud and aggravated or severe felonies.

Though a misdemeanor or felony alone will not guarantee deportation, severe felonies such as robbery, assault, or sexual misconduct will most likely result in deportation.

If you are confused about any part of the immigration system, U.S. Immigration Bonds offers unlimited resources for immigrants and detainees of ICE detention centers. The keys to freedom are within your grasp, U.S. Immigration Bonds can help. Call today to speak with an immigration bail bonds specialist about your current immigration situation.

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