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Differences Between Having a Green Card & Being a U.S. Citizen

Naturalized citizens and lawful permanent residents of the United States share some legal rights insofar as being able to live in the country indefinitely. Residence and citizenship are both benefits conferred by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but there are marked differences between the two. 

Travel Differences 

Freedom of movement between the U.S. and other countries is virtually unrestricted for citizens. However, this is not quite the case with permanent residents who put their status at risk when they spend more than six months away from the country. Naturalized citizens can choose to retire abroad and return to the U.S. without having to worry about losing their legal status. 

Whereas permanent residents are expected to travel using passports from their countries of origin, U.S. citizens are entitled to travel with American passports, which in many cases allow them to enter countries without having to apply for visas beforehand. Citizens can also apply for border crossing cards that make travel between Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. easier. 

Grounds of Inadmissibility 

Admissibility is a major difference between green card holders and naturalized citizens that takes place at the various American ports of entry around the world. Permanent residents are subject to a series of restrictions known as grounds of inadmissibility, which must be cleared before they allowed to enter the United States. American citizens, on the other hand, must be allowed entry as long as their passports are valid. Even when citizens living abroad have legal issues preventing them from getting a 10-year passport, they should be allowed to get a temporary travel document for reentry. 

Sponsoring Relatives for Immigration Purposes 

Immigration benefits are easier to extend to relatives of U.S. citizens. Spouses, children, and parents have immediate preference to enter the U.S. and apply for work permits and green cards. Regarding job opportunities, naturalized citizens can seek commissions in the U.S. Armed Forces, and they can even pursue employment in certain federal agencies. Citizenship also grants the right to participate in the democratic process by means of voting in federal elections of Congressional Representatives, Senators, and the President. 

Avoiding Deportation 

An important advantage of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen is that it significantly reduces the likelihood of deportation. For deportation to happen, prosecutors must present a very strong case to persuade the court to take away citizenship, and this is mostly limited to heinous crimes such as immigration fraud. On the other hand, permanent residents are subject to their green cards being taken away for various reasons, including failing to file certain documents in a timely manner, being convicted of minor crimes, or staying out of the U.S. for extended periods. At a time when the Trump administration has enacted overzealous deportation practices, green card holders who have resided in the U.S. for at least five years should strongly consider seeking the assistance of a San Diego immigration law firm and starting the naturalization process.

If you need information on immigration services in San Diego, contact KS Visa Law today. From family law immigration to naturalization, we can address your immigration-related needs. Call 858-874-0711 to schedule an appointment.

April 2024