Permanent resident vs citizen: What’s the difference?

Who doesn’t want to live in one of the world’s largest economies? If you are also planning to experience the American dream, then give this article a full read because here we are going to discuss the difference between a permanent resident vs citizen.

Before you make a move, you must be aware of this difference. Both the processes are lengthy and time-consuming, but once settled you will be on the brink to live your desired lifestyle in America.

Without wasting any more time, let’s get to the point.

Your first question would be, ‘ who are permanent residents and who are citizens?’

Permanent resident vs citizen

Permanent resident: A permanent residentship is a status given to those foreign nationals who wish to live in the United States of America while keeping the citizenship of their own country. This status will allow the foreigner to reside while working in the US.

Those who are identified as permanent residents receive a document called ‘green card,’ this document also doubles as a person’s social security number as well.

Citizen: On the contrary, a citizen is someone who is born on the lands of the United States. Even if a person’s parents are foreign nationals but if someone is born here, the citizenship status will be attached to them automatically. 

Moreover, those who are not US-born can also acquire citizenship, but they can do it either by their parents or via naturalization. We will discuss both the processes moving forward.

Now that you are aware of what both statuses mean, let’s dig deep into what kind of benefits and rights a permanent resident gets and what a citizen is entitled to.

What are the rights and benefits of being a permanent resident vs a citizen?

Obviously, there is a major difference between a permanent resident, who is a green card holder and a citizen. Moreover, the benefits and rights of permanent residents would not be the same as a citizen, but green card holders can reap many benefits and practice their rights while staying in the US.

Rights and benefits of a Permanent Resident

You will be included in Federal assistance programs

There are many assistance programs by the federal government to balance the standards of living. Through these programs the government of the United States provides grants. As a permanent resident, you will be included in these federal programs, for example, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and alike. Moreover, you will also get social security benefits as well, along with medicare and many other allowances.

You can become a sponsor for your immediate family member.

Anyone foreign national who wishes to come to the US and wants to reside here will need either a professional or personal sponsor. If you are a permanent resident, then you can become a personal sponsor for your immediate family, which is your spouse and unmarried children.

You will be allowed to serve in specific military branches

Although being a permanent resident, you may not be able to run for public offices or serve directly in the military, but if you wish to include yourself in the US military, you will be able to get recruited in some specific military branches.

Other benefits and legal rights include:

  • You will be protected by all laws of the US, including residence and local jurisdiction
  • You will be able to travel throughout the US freely.
  • You will be able to buy a property in the US, get admission into public school as an alien resident and apply for a driver’s license as well.
  • If you fulfill the eligibility requirements for Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, you can receive the benefits

Rights and benefits of an American Citizen

Being a US citizen gives you more rights than being a permanent resident. One of the main benefits of being a citizen is a permanent residency and all the benefits that come along.

Apart from that, you are able to vote in the US elections, get a true social security number, are eligible to apply for a driver’s license, and attend public schools as a US citizen.

Moreover, you will also be able to join the military and run for public offices. If you are a citizen and want to call your family to live with you in the US as US citizens, then you can file a petition for them and get them US citizenship.

All in all, if you have become a US citizen, then you will hold all the rights and benefits that a US-born citizen has.

This brings us to another leading question that many foreign nationals have in mind, ‘ how to become a permanent resident in the US?’ Or ‘ how to acquire US citizenship?’ To get the answers to read further.

How to get permanent residency or Green Card in the US?

If you wish to become a permanent US resident, then you must have some kind of sponsorship. Read below to get the details on getting a US Green Card.

Apply for Green Card via Family Sponsorship

Perse, if you have any family member who is a citizen of the US or already acquires a Green card, can sponsor you for the US Green Card. However, if you are applying for a Green card via family sponsorship, then your sponsor must prove their relationship with you along with that, their income must be above 125% of the Federal poverty level. To carry forward the process, the sponsor must file a petition, which is the Alien Relative form – Form I-130 along with Affidavit of Support. Once the process is successful, you may become eligible to get a permanent residentship in the US.

Get Employer sponsorship to acquire US permanent residency

Another way to get a US green card is through employer sponsorship. If you are a skilled professional and wish to apply for a Green card, then find an employer in the US who can sponsor you and apply for your Green card via Form I-140 – Immigration petition form to plead their case in front of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, this usually works if you have exceptional talent or the lack of applications for a particular position by a US citizen.

Get a Green Card via the US Green Card lottery

If you are a national from one of the under-represented countries, you can surely benefit from the US Green Card lottery to get permanent resident status in the US. Around 50,000 people are selected from these countries and are given the opportunity to acquire a Green Card and work in the US. Although this is not as common as the above-mentioned two ways, it is still a good option if you are looking to shift to the US and experience the American Dream.

Get Asylum

Another way to get a Green Card is by applying for asylum. In severe cases where your life is threatened in your own country from war, persecution, or any other reason you can apply for asylum. Once your asylum request is accepted, you’ll have to live one year in the US to become eligible to apply for the Green Card.

These were the top 4 options of how you can become a permanent resident. Now, let’s have a look at if you are not a born US citizen, then how can you become a US citizen.

How to become a US citizen?

Acquiring citizenship status can be a more time-consuming and lengthy process. Moreover, it is also a bit more difficult than getting permanent resident status.

Become a citizen through Naturalization

To get citizenship through this process, you would need a Green card first before you apply for citizenship through Naturalization. If you already are a Green Card holder, then look at the criteria below to be eligible for citizenship application.

Criteria to apply for US citizenship by Naturalization

  • You must be at least 18 years of age when filing Form N-400 – Naturalization application form.
  • Have been a permanent US resident for a minimum of 5 years
  • Were living in the district or state for at least 3 months from where you initiated the citizenship process.
  • Prove uninterrupted permanent residency in the United States for at least 5 years before filing N-400
  • Be in the United States for at least 30 months out of 60 months when filing for citizenship by Naturalization
  • Are able to speak, read and write basic English
  • Are updated with the US history and the government policies
  • Have a good moral character
  • Prove that you respect the ideals and principles of the US constitution.

If you fulfill all the aforementioned criteria, then you are eligible to file N-400.

Marry a US citizen for the citizenship

Another common way to acquire citizenship is by marrying someone who is already a US citizen. Once you marry, the alien spouse must file for I-130 – Petition for Alien Relative along with the marriage documentation. You would also need to prove to the US government that you genuinely fell in love with your spouse and have not married them just for the sake of citizenship.

If you are in military service, you can apply for citizenship

As mentioned above, if you are a permanent resident, you are eligible to be recruited in some specific branches of the US military. If you are serving in the military, you become eligible to file for citizenship once after applying for either form N-400 or N-426.

This was all, for this article. Above we have clearly mentioned the difference between a permanent resident vs citizen. Moreover, we have also briefed you on the rights and benefits of both along with how to apply for a Green Card and citizenship. We hope that we have cleared out all your queries regarding the matter. If, in case you have any related questions, drop them into the comment section and we will get back to you.

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