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What differentiates a green card holder and a U.S. citizen?

On Behalf of | Jan 2, 2024 | Citizenship |

Navigating the complexities of immigration status in the United States can be daunting. If you’re confused about the different statuses of foreign-born people in the United States, you’re not alone.

If you are an individual seeking to establish roots in the land of opportunity, it’s crucial to understand the differences between holding a Green Card and being a U.S. Citizen.

What is legal residency?

Obtaining a green card signifies legal permanent residency in the United States. The eligibility criteria are often based on family connections, employment, refugee/asylee status or other special programs. Applicants undergo a meticulous process, including background checks and interviews, to ensure compliance with immigration laws.

While green card holders enjoy many rights, such as the ability to work and live anywhere in the U.S., they do not have the right to vote in federal elections. This limitation is a crucial distinction from U.S. citizens.

In some cases, green card holders may initially receive conditional permanent residency, which requires further steps to remove conditions. This involves submitting additional documentation to prove the legitimacy of the marriage or investment that led to the green card.

What is U.S. citizenship?

Becoming a U.S. citizen involves a process called naturalization. Unlike obtaining a green card, which confers permanent residency, naturalization is a pathway to full U.S. Citizenship. Eligibility requirements include:

  • A minimum period of permanent residency
  • Good moral character
  • A demonstrated understanding of U.S. history and government

U.S. citizens enjoy a broader spectrum of rights compared to green card holders. These include the right to vote in all elections, run for public office and obtain a U.S. passport for international travel. However, this status also comes with responsibilities, such as paying taxes and potentially being called for jury duty.

Individuals need to be well-informed about these differences to make decisions aligned with their long-term aspirations. Whether aiming for permanent residency or full U.S. Citizenship, understanding the intricacies of each status is the key to a successful and legally compliant journey in the United States.


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