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Difference between GC and USC

Difference between green card and citizenship in USA | Permanent Resident vs Citizen

Many foreign nationals come over to the USA to study as international students on the basis of F-1, J-1 visas. Furthermore, many look forward to working in the USA and become a permanent resident. There are many more who look forward to permanent living in the USA.

That being said, many confuse between the term ‘Citizen’ and ‘Permanent Resident’ and the difference between green card and citizenship. Both of these entities enjoy many basic rights like permanent residency, ability to work. But some of the core rights enjoyed by the citizens are not available to green-card holders. Thus these statuses are not exchangeable.

This article will help you understand the difference between green-card and citizenship.

What is a ‘Green Card’?

‘Green card’ is an identity card and is proof that an individual is a resident of the United States. It is officially known as the Permanent Resident Card.

The green cardholders have the right to live and work in the USA. The green card allows them to have a legal right in terms of work (be it for themselves or an American employer) and residency.

How to attain permanent resident status?

There are different ways for a foreign national to become a permanent resident of the US. They are

  1. Family-sponsored Green card
    This can be availed by those who have a relative who is a US citizen or GC holder. The only requirement, in this case, is that the individual must prove their relationship with the concerned relative, and the relative must be earning at least or more than 125% of the federal poverty line.
  2. Employment-based Green card
    A foreigner can apply for a green card if an American-based employer sponsors them. This category has 5 levels. Depending on one’s applicable category, the ease of entry varies. Those who have exceptional talent fall under the EB-1 category and find it easier. While the ones who don’t fall in this category need to apply for labor certification and further processes as per federal rules.

The other ways to enter the US as a permanent resident is through seeking asylum and through the US green card lottery.

The rights of a green card holder:

  • They can get a Social Security card, which makes them qualified for government-managed social benefits, Medical benefits, and supplemental security pay
  • Green Card holders can apply for visas for their life partners and their unmarried children so they can dwell in the U.S.
  • They can serve in certain areas of working of the U.S. military
  • Being a permanent resident, green card holders are qualified for government support schemes which include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program SNAP (otherwise known as food stamps), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Services for Survivors of Domestic Violence. The time frame of an individual’s stay period in the US and their annual income defines the eligibility to avail of these services.
  • Travel to different nations outside of the United States. Impermanent or brief travel typically doesn’t influence your residency status.

The responsibilities to be fulfilled by green cardholders:

  • They must associate with and encourage democracy.
  • Keep all the laws of all levels of governing bodies.
  • Maintain proper income tax returns.
  • Notify USCIS in case of a change in residential address.

READ: How to Hire a Foreign Employee in USA?

What is US Citizenship?

The utmost status that one can receive as per the US immigration laws is Citizenship. This offers many more advantages over green card rights inclusive of the right to live in the US.

There are many ways to attain a US citizenship status. The foremost and the easiest is through birth. The other ways include familial bond with US citizens. From the perspective of a foreign worker, naturalization is the best way to receive this status.

The rights received by a US citizen among others are:

  • Right to vote
  • To file a petition for their non-US spouses, married and unmarried children, siblings, relations to settle in the US.
  • Work for all US employers, the US government, or be self-employed.
  • Right to receive a US passport alongside travel ability outside of the US without any time restriction.
  • Apply and stand for political positions.

How to become a US citizen?

The major ways to obtain US citizenship status are

  • Naturalization

An individual has to be a green card holder through any of the given methods above. Once this is done, then the naturalization process becomes much easy. All that remains for the individual to fulfill certain requirements such as age limit, duration of holding a green card, comprehending English to be able to read, write and speak, good moral conduct, etc. among other requirements.

  • Marrying a US citizen

If you have a spouse who has US citizenship. Then, the spouse can submit a petition on behalf of you alongside the documents verifying marriage and residency and such supporting documents. Here too, certain criteria similar to the naturalization process need to be met before USCIS can clear the application and provide US citizenship.

  • Serving Military

If an individual holds a green card, then they are eligible to apply for certain branches in the military. Further based on your moral conduct and filing either the N-400 or N-426 form, they can apply to become a US citizen.

The Difference between Green Card and Citizenship in Employment Status.

Being a citizen always entitles more benefits. The same is the case here too. US citizens can apply for all jobs in the USA as long as they are qualified to do so. This is not the case with the Green cardholders.


The benefits of being a green card holder are huge and these manifest well over time. Most of the foreign workers attain this status through employers sponsoring them. Once you have gained enough prospectus in light of the criteria needed for naturalization, you can put forward your application to USCIS to become a US citizen. Being a citizen means you have all the rights including the ones given to green cardholders.

Neil Thomas

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