Permanent Resident vs Citizen: There Are Differences and They’re BIG

Posted by Frank Gogol

While many people often use the terms “Permanent Resident” and “Citizen” interchangeably, there is a great deal of difference between these two statuses. If you are wondering about the differences and similarities between the two, then go through this article to get a clear understanding of the details.

What Is a Lawful Permanent Resident?

Having residency status legally grants you permission to live in the United States for a specified period of time. That means you are no longer a tourist, but rather a legal alien in the country. The status of permanent resident goes one step further to allow you the right to stay indefinitely. A lawful permanent resident can live in the U.S. for as long as they wish.

That said, permanent residents have quite a few limitations compared to U.S. citizens. First of all, they remain the lawful citizens of their originating country. They won’t get a U.S. passport or voting rights. Spending a year away from the U.S. can place them in removal proceedings and they may run the risk of being deported from the United States.

All permanent residents, after a certain duration of time (usually 5 years), are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. They have to show good moral character during their tenure as a permanent resident and clear an exam on U.S. history and government to attain the status of a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Rights and Benefits of Lawful Residents

Lawful permanent residents in the United States enjoy a number of privileges over the tourist and immigrant communities.

To start with, they can get the elusive “Green Card.” It also includes the right to work in the U.S. They are also allowed to accept employment or start a legitimate business.

They can even bring in their immediate family members (spouse and minor children) to reside with them. Permanent residents can leave/enter the U.S. at will without the risk of being denied by immigration officials.

Permanent residents have the right to apply for government-sponsored financial aid for educational purposes. They have access to security clearances and exemptions from export restrictions. They are also eligible to receive Social Security benefits, supplemental security income, and Medicare benefits.

Who Is Considered a U.S. Citizen?

A person may become a United States citizen by birth or through naturalization. You are a United States citizen by birth if you were born anywhere in the United States or its territories. In addition, you are eligible for “derived citizenship” if you were born abroad, but one of your parents was a lawful U.S. citizen at the time of your birth.

Then there is the concept of citizenship through naturalization. It is applicable to those individuals who were born in a foreign country and then immigrated to the U.S. They can apply for U.S. citizenship after acquiring permanent resident status. If approved by the proper authorities, they become naturalized citizens.

Rights and Benefits of U.S. Citizens

Wondering what benefits U.S. citizenship brings? Citizenship is the highest status an individual can attain under U.S. immigration law. Becoming a U.S. citizen brings many advantages to an individual residing in the United States. Some of the most notable benefits associated with citizenship include:

  1. You will be a U.S. passport holder.
  2. The right to vote. You can cast your vote in local, state, and federal elections.
  3. The ability to run for a seat in public office.
  4. Eligibility for federal employee benefits.
  5. The ability to benefit from U.S. tax law.
  6. You will not be subjected to deportation unless you committed fraud in obtaining your citizenship in the first place.
  7. The ability to have your family members join you in the U.S.
  8. Being able to sponsor your family members to obtain their Green Cards.

What’s the Difference Between a Permanent Resident and a U.S. Citizen?

While both permanent residents and citizens enjoy a great deal of freedom over other immigrants and visa holders, there is a broad demarcation between the two. The most notable differences are:

  1. U.S. citizens can cast their voting rights, but permanent residents don’t have voting privileges.
  2. Permanent residents continue with their originating country’s passport, but U.S. citizens are legitimate U.S. passport holders.
  3. Citizens are not subjected to deportation, but permanent residents can be deported to their native country under certain circumstances.
  4. A U.S. citizen can run for office in a public election, permanent residents can’t.
  5. U.S. citizens can join the U.S. Armed Forces and defense services, permanent residents can’t.
  6. Citizens are not bound by a visa quota to bring in their family members to the United States, but permanent residents have certain restrictions in this regard.
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Citizenship is the highest individual status in the U.S. hierarchy. Lawful permanent residence is usually considered the necessary first step to achieving U.S. citizenship. A permanent resident can stay in the U.S. indefinitely, but he/she remains the lawful citizen of another country. While permanent residents do have a certain amount of additional entitlement over visa holders, citizenship unlocks all the privileges an individual in the United States can have—including the coveted U.S. passport and the right to participate in public elections.

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