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US Citizenship vs Green Card: What's the Difference?

Becoming a US Green Card holder or citizen guarantees you will enjoy certain rights, including working and living permanently in the United States. However, a Green Card holder (permanent resident) only has access to some benefits enjoyed by US citizens.

For more enquiries regarding the differences between US citizenship and Green Card status and your eligibility for both, contact our immigration attorneys today. Call us at +1 844 290 6312, or reach us online.

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    Key Differences Between US Green Cards and US Citizenship

    There can be confusion over the difference between a US Green Card and citizenship as a Green Card holder can stay permanently in the US just like a US citizen. However, Green Card holders are still considered noncitizens, so US citizens enjoy more rights than them.

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    Understanding the Differences

    The following are the main differences between the US Green Card and US citizenship:

    US Passport

    Only US citizens are qualified for the US passport, which grants them entry without a visa into multiple countries. In contrast, a Green Card holder must obtain citizenship before getting a US passport. While US citizens can travel abroad for as long as they wish, Green Card holders can only stay abroad for up to one year, or their permanent residence permit could get withdrawn.

    Since the United States permits dual citizenship, citizens can own passports from the US and their home country, except if their home country has specific prohibitions or does not permit dual citizenship. If you are a permanent resident, you must present your passport from your home country and your permanent resident card when travelling.


    Another key difference between US citizenship and Green Card is that a US citizen cannot be deported even after committing certain crimes. On the other hand, a Green Card holder can lose their permit after committing fraud, drug trafficking, murder or rape. They are likely to be deported after committing two or more crimes following the issuance of their Green Cards.

    If a Green Card was obtained through misrepresentation or fraud, it would be revoked; the same goes for US citizenship obtained illegally.


    Only citizen parents can obtain citizenship for their children overseas and petition for family members to obtain Green Cards. In contrast, a Green Card holder can only obtain permanent residence cards for their dependents based on their relationship.

    For example, a Green Card holder can only petition for their spouse and unmarried children under 21 to get the permanent residence permit. Unmarried children of a lawful permanent resident (21 years or older) are also eligible for a Green Card.

    Right to Vote

    Only US citizens can vote during the state, federal, and local elections and run for office in a public election.Green Card holders are not able to vote because they are considered non-US citizens.

    Some federal or specific government jobs also require applicants to be US citizens to be eligible for the role. Lastly, US citizens must serve in the military or on a jury when called for duty, but it is not compulsory for Green Card holders.

    Do you want to obtain a green card or citizenship status? Our US immigration lawyers can help. Contact Us

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      What Are the Similarities Between US Green Card and US Citizenship?

      It is possible to confuse US citizenship with the Green Card because they have common responsibilities and benefits. Green Card holders and citizens are required to:

      • File both state and federal income tax returns.
      • Register with the Selective Service as a man between the ages of 18 to 25.

      Both a Green Card holder or a US citizen can do the following:

      • Travel outside the US. Green Card holders can travel abroad for at most a year, as travelling for longer can affect their Green Card status.
      • Apply for a driver’s license.
      • Receive Social Security benefits, Medicare benefits, or Supplemental Security Income.
      • Serve in the U.S. military.
      • Apply to bring your spouses and unmarried children to reside in the US.
      • Study at the country’s public schools and colleges.
      • Open bank accounts.
      • Obtain a Social Security Number.
      • Qualify for federal benefits – although this can depend on income and length of stay in the US.

      Overview of the US Green Card

      The US Green Card (also known as Permanent Resident Card) is a residence permit issued to non-US citizens that allows them to live in the US indefinitely and grants them access to many benefits enjoyed by US citizens.

      Except if you were born in the United States to non-citizen parents or US citizen parents overseas, the Green Card is a non-negotiable for US citizenship. You should have had the Green Card for at least five or three years (if your spouse is a US citizen) to be eligible for citizenship.

      While the Green Card is essential for citizenship, you do not need to obtain citizenship with the Green Card. You can live permanently in the US as a non-citizen but must renew your Green Card every ten years.

      Who Is Eligible for the US Green Card?

      There are several means to qualify for the US Green Card, which include:

      Green Card Through Family

      Obtaining a Green Card as a family member of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) is the most popular method. You can get a Green Card if you:

      • Have a spouse who is a US citizen or holds a lawful permanent resident status.
      • Are married or unmarried and have a citizen parent.
      • Are the parent of a United States citizen at least 21 years old.
      • Are unmarried, below 21, and have parents who are LPRs.
      • Are the sibling of a U.S. citizen at least 21 years old.

      For more enquiries concerning your eligibility as a relative of a US citizen or Green Card holder, contact our immigration lawyers at +1 844 290 6312 or online.

      Green Card Through Employment

      Another means for obtaining a US Green Card is through employment-based sponsorship. You may be eligible to apply for a Green Card if you are a first-preference, second-preference or third-preference immigrant worker. A first-preference immigrant worker (priority worker) has extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business and arts. In contrast, a second-preference immigrant worker is a member of a profession that requires an advanced degree. The third-preference worker need a bachelor’s degree to work.

      Green Card as a Special Immigrant

      Under the Special immigrant category, you can obtain a Green Card as

      • Religious worker from a religious denomination going to the US to work for a nonprofit religious organisation.
      • Special Immigrant Juvenile who needs protection from a juvenile court due to parent’s neglect or abuse.
      • International broadcaster working in the US as a U.S. Agency for Global Media member.

      Other categories of people who qualify for the US Green Card include Afghanistan or Iraq nationals, an asylee in the US (for at least a year), victims of abuse and human trafficking victims.

      Contact us to learn more about how IAS can help you with your citizenship or green card application Contact Us

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        Overview of US Citizenship

        There are two main ways to obtain US citizenship and enjoy full rights as an American. Firstly, you can become a citizen by birth if you were born in the US territory, outside the territory if any of your parents are US citizens at the time of your birth or if you have a birth certificate issued by a U.S. state.

        On the other hand, US Citizenship through naturalization is the process whereby non-US citizens willingly apply to become American citizens. In this case, you must have owned a Green Card for at least five or three years (as a spouse of a US citizen).

        You must renew your Green Card if it has already expired before your application or if it will expire within six months of applying. Unlike Green Card holders, you don’t need to renew your US citizenship.

        Who Is Eligible for US Citizenship?

        The requirements to become a US citizen depend on whether you have been an LPR for at least five years, are married to a US citizen, have served in the US military, or are the child of a US citizen.

        The eligibility requirements for Green Card holders to become US citizens also require:

        • You should be at least 18 years old during your application.
        • You should be able to read, write and speak basic English.
        • Your criminal record should be clear because the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will use this to determine if you have good moral character.
        • You have to pass a basic U.S. history and government test and attend an interview.

        You will go through a 10-step naturalisation process to become a US citizen, which can get overwhelming. Contact our immigration experts for advice. Call us at +1 844 290 6312, or reach us online.

        How Can We Help?

        If you have more questions and need expert advice concerning the US Green Card or citizenship, we recommend contacting our immigration lawyers. They can help handle your Green Card application and give advice throughout the process.

        Our lawyers are well-equipped and can handle the US immigration process and laws correctly. Any IAS USA immigration attorney will give details of the restrictions and requirements of the Green Card and citizenship to confirm your eligibility.

        Above all, our lawyers can help you handle your application to the highest standards and choose the best approach if you already have a criminal record. Contact us at +1 844 290 6312, or reach us online.

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