What is The Difference Between a Green Card and US Citizenship?

While green card holders are entitled to many of the same benefits as a US citizen, there are a number of key differences which separate the permanent resident status from full citizenship.

The Rights of Permanent Citizenship

  • Perhaps the most important advantage of obtaining a green card is that it allows you to work, study, own/rent property, and travel in the United States.
  • Permanent residents are allowed to leave and reenter the United States.
  • Permanent residents can submit petitions for close family members (spouses and unmarried children) who wish to obtain the same status. However, it should be noted that only a limited number of visas are issued to these preference relatives every year so they may have to wait several years before they become eligible for their green cards.
  • Permanent residents are eligible for Social Security and Medicare Benefits. They may also qualify for federal assistance programs including food stamps and other forms of support aimed at families in need. Eligibility will vary depending on how long you’ve been in the United States, and your state of residence.

Responsibilities of a Permanent Resident

  • All permanent residents are obligate to file federal and state income tax returns.
  • Male green card holders between the ages of 18 to 25 must register with the Selective Service.
  • Any change in residence must be communicated to the UCIS via Form AR-11
  • Conditional permanent residents (generally green cards obtained through marriage) have a validity period of two years. These green cards are not eligible for renewal. Instead, applicants must request to have their conditional status removed so that they can live in the country as permanent residents.
  • Regular green cards are usually valid for a period of 10 years, and must be renewed before their expiration date.

Can Permanent Residence Be Revoked?

There are a number of disqualifying factors that may cause your permanent residence status to be revoked.

  • If a green card holder spends upwards of 12 months outside the country, then the US immigration authorities may rule that you have abandoned your right to permanent residence, in which case you may be barred from entering the United States. For this reason, we generally advise these individuals to obtain a reentry permit before leaving the country.
  • If a permanent resident fails to notify the UCIS of any changes in their address, then this could be considered grounds for deportability.
  • If the individual obtained permanent residence through marriage fraud or has participated in marriage fraud since. If a green card holder applied for a green card within two years of marriage and then annulled or terminated the marriage within the subsequent two years, then their marriage may be considered fraudulent unless they can prove otherwise.
  • If the permanent resident has been convicted of a drug crime, fraud, sale/purchase of illegal firearms, or failed to register as a sex offender, then their green card status may be revoked.

Right of US Citizenship

US citizens are exempt from all grounds of deportability, and they enjoy an unrestricted right to live and work within the country.

As a US citizen you can also:

  • Run for public office.
  • Vote in federal, state, and local elections.
  • Petition for permanent residency status for your siblings and parents.
  • Travel outside of the United States for an unlimited period of time.
  • Apply for public sector jobs.
  • You are also entitled to certain federal and state benefits that are only provided to US citizens (scholarships, grants)

Looking to Apply For US Citizenship?

If you have maintained permanent residence in the United States for five years (physical residence for 2.5 years) then you may qualify for naturalization through Form N-400.  A qualified immigration lawyer can help you confirm your eligibility and guide you through the process for obtaining your US citizenship.