Key differences between US citizenship and green card status

Both a green card and/or U.S. citizenship will allow you to stay within the United States. For example, many people will come to the U.S. on a work visa or a student visa, and then they will start a life here.

If they qualify, they may get a green card (lawful permanent resident status) so that they can stay and work indefinitely. Once they have had a green card for three to five years, they can seek U.S. citizenship, if they’d like. What are the differences between the two types of status?

Green card benefits and risks

Once you are a green card holder, you can live and work in the U.S. as long as you like, provided you commit no crimes and are not a security risk. However, you could still be deported if you commit crimes or become inadmissible to the U.S.

You can sponsor some relatives to come the U.S. as lawful permanent residents themselves. These include your spouse and your children, with unmarried kids under 21 getting priority. These relatives will be admitted based on preference categories.

You don’t have to apply for citizenship to live, work and bring family to the U.S. However, there are benefits to becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States.

The benefits of citizenship

Some of the benefits of citizenship over a green card include:

  1. If you have children who are minors, they can receive citizenship when you do.
  2. You can sponsor a greater range of relatives to come to the U.S. than you can on a green card, and those relatives will often have greater priority in the immigration system.
  3. You can vote in local, state and national elections.
  4. You are allowed to hold the majority of public offices if you want to work in politics, with the exception of the presidency and the vice presidency.
  5. You have the freedom to travel with a passport outside of the country and to re-enter as you please.
  6. If you need U.S. government assistance or protection, especially while you are overseas, it will be more readily available to you.
  7. Citizenship lasts forever. Becoming a U.S. citizen means that you have the indefinite right to live your life in the United States. You can no longer be deported.

Seeking citizenship can certainly change your life in many different ways. It can give you opportunities that you didn’t have before and protections that you wouldn’t have enjoyed otherwise. It can especially be impactful for your children and future generations. Make sure that you know exactly what legal steps you’ll need to take if U.S. citizenship is something you would like to consider.

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