Believe it or not, the U.S. accepts more immigrants than nearly any country in the world by a large margin. Every year, the U.S. grants over 140,000 new green cards every year, and welcomed over 800,000 new citizens after the pandemic backup in 2021!

If you’re considering moving to the United States, you have several options to choose from. Let’s talk compare green card vs citizenship to see which route is best for your needs!

What Is a Green Card?

Holders of a green card, also known as permanent resident card, are permanent residents of the United States. They are neither naturalized U.S. citizens nor U.S. citizens by birth. Green card holders immigrated to the United States under some type of visa program and typically have lived in the U.S. for anywhere from 90 days to a decade on average.

However, there are many options on how to get a green card that may speed up or slow down this process. For example, entering into a genuine marriage to a U.S. citizen will likely move the process faster than obtaining a professional or skilled worker’s temporary visa and transitioning to green card status by way of a job offer. These are classified as family sponsorships and employer sponsorships.

There are also green card lotteries you can enter for a chance to obtain permanent residency under the U.S.’s diversity visa program, and several other options to choose from depending on your circumstances. Still, in most cases, people live in the U.S. for a period before obtaining a green card.

Of course, foreign nationals may also choose to seek asylum. This is reserved for those fearing for their freedom or safety in their home country due to persecution they may face by their home country government and on account of their political belief, social group, religion, or race.  This is also known as political asylum. You may enter the U.S. on a travel visa  while you make your plea or in some cases, present your case to an immigration officer at the time of being inspected at a port of entry

Obtaining Citizenship

There are plenty of paths to citizenship in the United States, each of which comes with its own challenges and benefits. With very few exceptions, foreign nationals will start with a green card before obtaining citizenship, as most paths will require a permanent residency first.

A person can obtain U.S. citizenship by way of naturalization, military service, birth in the U.S. and sometimes even by way of birth abroad if their parent is a U.S. citizen and meets certain requirements.  To become a naturalized U.S. citizen, which is the most common path, a green card holder needs to meet certain requirements, such as comprehending, speaking, and writing basic English, as well as developing a basic  understanding of U.S. history and civics.

Lawful permanent residents who obtain their status by way of their marriage to a U.S. citizen usually have the quickest route toward establishing eligibility to naturalize as a U.S. citizen.  In such cases though, the process will require validation of your lawful and legitimate marriage and may be subject to investigation.

Finally, green card holders may choose to serve in certain branches of the U.S. military. Certain qualifying foreign nationals in various limited circumstances may be eligible for U.S. citizenship by virtue of their signing up for service, although of course such a step will involve a large commitment!

1. You Can’t Vote With a Green Card

Lawful permanent residents residing in the U.S. on green cards cannot vote in local, state, or federal elections, even though they have the right to live permanently in the U.S.

Green card holders may also be barred from joining certain branches of government that require U.S. citizenship, although they can typically serve in the armed forces in most circumstances.

2. Green Card Holders Face Deportation Risks

If a U.S. citizen commits a crime, espionage, or some other serious offense, they do not face the risk of being deported.

Conversely, a green card holder may face the prospect of being placed in removal proceedings and even deported on the grounds of committing serious legal offenses or crimes.  These violations can also include noncriminal acts, such as unauthorized voting.

In certain extreme cases, citizenship can be revoked when granted to a foreign national where acts of significant and material misrepresentations were at play during any aspect of the U.S. immigration process.  However, this is a rare occurrence.

3. Green Card Holders Must Limit Travel

Green card holders may travel outside of the United States. However, prolonged trips may harm their status as lawful permanent residents as well as their eligibility to apply for U.S. citizenship.  This isn’t a major concern for most residents, but it is something to keep in mind if you intend to visit family in another country or depart the U.S. for any other reason for an extended period.

Conversely, U.S. citizenship will take these limitations out of the equation and provide more options for extended travel outside the U.S. or living abroad. . U.S. citizens typically have better options when it comes to petitioning certain qualifying family members who may choose to migrate to the U.S. and seek permanent resident status.

4. You Can Obtain a Green Card Before Moving Here

You don’t need a tourist visa or anything else to obtain your green card, and you don’t even have to be in the U.S.  Under the right circumstances and with the right qualifications, if  you have an employee or family sponsorship, you can petition for your permanent visa right away. This is one of the most common paths to citizenship for foreign nationals.

Without family in the U.S., an employee sponsorship is usually your only alternative route. If you have certain work-related skills that are in high demand, an employer based immigrant visa petition will your avenue to arriving in the U.S. on a green card!

5. Citizens Have More Rights

Overall, this is the key difference between a green card and citizenship.

Of course, this goes without saying. However, it goes beyond holding public office or voting. Non-citizens may not be eligible for certain loans, grants, or financial assistance programs. Make sure you have the appropriate, required financial support before attempting to obtain a green card!

Green Card vs Citizenship: Which Is Right For Me?

Now that you know the difference between a green card vs citizenship, you can choose the path that’s right for you. A green card is a great way to begin living and working in the United States while building your path toward future citizenship. If you’re interested in living and working in the U.S., the process can take a while, so don’t wait!

Stay up to date with our latest immigration news, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or for help with the process!