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United States Citizenship vs. Permanent Residency 2017-04-11T15:00:56+00:00

Family members can sponsor immigrants hoping to come to America so long as they are United States citizens or lawful residents. In addition, as an immigrant, you might be applying for citizenship status or status as a lawful permanent resident. However, you might feel confused about the details of these two terms. What is the difference between a citizen and a permanent resident? Which one should you apply for? You can learn all about the similarities and differences between these two forms of residency here.

US Citizens

Everyone born in the United States has status as a US citizen, just as you have status as a citizen of the country that you were born in. The other ways that you can become a US citizen include:

  • Through your parents, if they are citizens.
  • Through naturalization.

United States citizens receive the following benefits:

  • Can apply for and receive a United States passport. This has the added benefit of being able to travel in many countries without acquiring a visa.
  • Voting in local and federal elections.
  • Holding some government jobs that are not available to noncitizens.
  • Being part of a jury.
  • Having access to government scholarships, grants, and benefits that are only available for citizens.
  • Ability to leave and return to the country at any time without the need for a reentry permit.
  • Having the right not to face deportation from America.
  • Being able to help your relatives become United States citizens.

So, if you want to receive these benefits, you should try to become a United States citizen through naturalization or, if this option applies to you, through your parents’ (or other relatives’) citizenship status.

Permanent Resident

A permanent resident of the United States is an immigrant that has been granted the right to indefinitely live in the United States through the authorization of a green card. Becoming a permanent resident in the United States does not mean that you are no longer a citizen of the country where you were born. When you travel, you have to carry your passport from the country that you are a citizen of and your American green card. Permanent residents have the following rights in the United States:

  • Right to live in the United States.
  • Right to work in the United States.
  • Ability to petition for your family members to join you in the United States and become permanent residents.
  • Remain the citizen of your birth country.

However, unlike citizens, permanent residents cannot:

  • Vote.
  • Leave the United States and automatically obtain reentrance. If you leave the United States for an extended period of time, the United States government will assume that you are giving up your green card.
  • Be exempt from deportation.

What Should I Apply For?

If you are an immigrant hoping to move to the United States, you should apply for permanent residency first. There are only a few situations in which you can immediately become a citizen. If you become a permanent resident first, you can then apply for citizenship later on. After five years of permanent residency in the United States, you can pass an exam and apply for citizenship through naturalization.

If you want to become a permanent resident or a citizen of the United States and you need assistance, I am here to help! I can assist you in filling out paperwork and going through this process. Contact me here for more information.