Difference Between Permanent Residency and Citizenship


Permanent residency, also known as the Green Card Status, is a process provided by US Citizenship and Immigration Service or USCIS. Permanent Residency is required for any foreign citizen who intends to remain in the United States Permanently. Common ways to acquire Lawful Permanent Residency include:

  • Marriage to a US citizen or Green Card Holder
  • Being a child of a US citizen or Green Card Holder
  • Being the Parent of a US citizen
  • Sponsored employment
  • Through asylum/refugee processes

Permanent residency, although similar to U.S. Citizenship, is different and restricted. However, lawful permanent residency is required to become eligible for Citizenship. Consider this, a citizen of the United States has more rights than a resident. a citizen can own a gun, vote in elections, come-and-go in the U.S. whenever they please, and most importantly, not be fearful of mere deportation, which is a possibility for permanent residency.

Which is best for you?

Every foreign national must obtain a green card before applying for citizenship. So, Permanent residency is a requirement. Yet, it does not have to be the ultimate goal. If the U.S. is expected to be someone’s last home, then Citizenship is the best option. However, if a green card holder prefers to keep strong ties to a homeland for property or business reasons, permanent residency may be preferred.

Basic Eligibility for Citizenship

To be eligible for citizenship, a green card holder must generally have permanent residency for 5 years. If the underlying residency was acquired through a US Citizen spouse, then 3 years of permanent residency may be required versus the generaly 5 year requirement.

However, it is wise to speak with an immigration attorney prior to filing for naturalization, since eligibility is important and the naturalization process can take as little as 2 months and as long as 2 years.

Benefits of U.S. Citizenship

A US citizen enjoys many benefits over that of a lawful permanent resident. Some benefits are:

  • Priority in immigration petitioning
  • Ability to confer US Citizenship to children
  • Use of a US passport
  • Eligibility to acquire federal employment
  • The right to vote
  • Right to hold public office

Comparison of both with regards to deportation

In addition to these benefits, a US citizen cannot lose citizenship except in rare circumstances. In comparison, a Green Card Holder may easily lose their status for many reasons, especially the commission of a crime.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call Fickey Martinez Law Firm at (910) 526-0066 or email us at attorney@fickeymartinezlaw.com.


Disclaimer: This Blog is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.