Some immigrants dream of becoming United States citizens. Others just want to obtain a green card. A green card makes someone a lawful permanent resident, which means that they can potentially stay in the United States for the rest of their life. Permanent residents can also remain in the country indefinitely.
People might assume that getting a green card is roughly the same thing as becoming a citizen. However, there are key differences between citizenship and becoming a permanent resident. Many people will realize after reviewing those differences that naturalizing is a worthwhile endeavor.
What separates green card holders from citizens in the United States?
The risk of removal
The word permanent is misleading. Someone with a green card does not have the right to remain in the country forever in all circumstances. A permanent resident can still end up deported or removed from the United States. Major criminal infractions could lead to someone’s removal even after obtaining a green card. Those who naturalize generally do not have to worry about deportation regardless of what occurs in the future.
The need for ongoing paperwork
Naturalizing is a complex process that requires paperwork and an interview with immigration professionals. People often worry about the work involved and convince themselves that remaining a permanent resident requires less work. A permanent resident does not get to stay indefinitely without taking additional steps. They will need to continue filing paperwork with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services USCIS every 10 years. Failing to do so could lead to the revocation of a green card and the risk of removal.
The expanded rights of citizens
Citizens have more rights than lawful permanent residents. The final major difference between a permanent resident and a citizen is what rights they have while living in the United States. Citizens can run for political office and vote in federal elections. They can obtain a United States passport and possibly work federal jobs. They also have more opportunities to help more of their family members legally enter the United States.
Understanding what separates a green card holder from a citizen may help people determine if naturalization is the right choice for their circumstances.