Green Card Vs. Citizenship: What’s The Difference?

A Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) card - commonly known as a “Green Card” - allows a person to lawfully reside in the United States permanently, and live and work in the U.S. But it’s not quite the same as U.S. citizenship. 

There are some major differences between the two that you may want to understand before you either seek a Green Card or work toward becoming a U.S. citizen. In this blog from Bennett Law Center, we’ll discuss what you need to know. 

The Basics & Rights Of Permanent Residents (Green Card Holders)

Lawful Permanent Residents of the United States are given green identification cards that confirm their rights, hence the common term “Green Card.” You get many of the same benefits as a U.S. citizen.

For example, you can petition for your immediate family members, including unmarried kids and spouses, to obtain permanent residency. You are also fully able to travel to other countries and return to the US at will. And, obviously, you can live and work in the United States.

But Green Card holders don’t quite have all of the same rights as U.S. citizens. There are some limitations, including:

  • Inability to vote in U.S. elections
  • You cannot remain outside of the U.S. for too long, or you risk “abandonment of residency” and loss of LPR status
  • Engaging in criminal activity can result in the loss of your Green Card
  • The USCIS must be notified when you change residences, or you may be at risk of deportation
  • You may have to wait a certain number of years before getting some LPR benefits
  • You may not be eligible for certain federal grants and scholarships

The Basics & Rights Of United States Citizens

Becoming a United States citizen is not easy, but it can be done with the help of an experienced Florida Immigration Attorney. In addition, it is possible to obtain a Green Card and then become a citizen later. You don’t have to choose one or the other.

The process is complex and different for each person. But if you are able to become a U.S. citizen – a process known as “naturalization” – you will have the full, irreversible rights of a United States citizen. 

In other words, the limitations outlined for Green Card holders will no longer apply. You can vote in elections, you will never lose your status if you leave the country (even for years at a time), you cannot be deported for engaging in criminal acts or failing to notify USCIS about residency changes, and you will get all of the other benefits a United States citizen gets.

This also includes the ability to petition for more family members to obtain Green Cards in the United States, including extended family members. However, you usually must wait a few years after naturalization to do this. 

Get Help With U.S. Citizenship Or A Green Card At Bennett Law Center 

Bridgette Bennett is an experienced Florida immigration attorney. Whether you’re seeking a Green Card, you already have a Green Card and want to become a U.S. citizen, or you have any other questions or need assistance understanding LPR status or U.S. citizenship, she is here to help. Contact us online or give us a call at 352-557-8989 to schedule a consultation.


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