Featured News 2020 The Differences Between Permanent Residency & Naturalization

The Differences Between Permanent Residency & Naturalization

Immigrants to the United States have two options if they want to stay indefinitely: they can become permanent residents (i.e., a green card holder) or naturalized citizens. Both of these titles allow immigrants to live and work in the U.S. for as long as they want, but there are significant differences between being a permanent resident and a naturalized citizen.

For one, permanent residency is a requirement of achieving naturalization. Immigrants cannot apply for naturalization unless they are first a permanent resident. Most often, individuals achieve permanent residency by being sponsored. A spouse or a close family member, even an employer in some circumstances, can petition for a foreigner to be given a green card. Normally, the petitioner must be a U.S. citizen in order to sponsor an immigrant.

Lottery, Refugee or Asylum Status

Immigrants can also become permanent residents if they achieve asylum or refugee status. This is a special privilege extended only to individuals who are being persecuted or at risk to being tortured or killed in their home countries. Also, immigrants who win a diversity visa lottery can come to the United States with a green card already in hand. The diversity lottery, however, only applies to countries with low immigration rates to the United States.

Individuals who do not have green cards from the outset will be required to petition for one when they arrive. This can be difficult, especially if the immigrant is undocumented.

Once an individual has a green card, he or she has permission to work and settle down in the United States for at least ten years, if not longer. Green card holders also have the right to make short trips to and from the U.S. and petition for close family members to receive green cards. Still, the U.S. government has the right to revoke an individual's green card if he or she commits a serious or violent crime or if the individual acts in a way that violates his or her rights and responsibilities to the United States.

Green card holders cannot do everything that citizens can. For example:

  • Only citizens can vote in U.S. elections
  • Only citizens can remain outside the U.S. for unlimited amounts of time
  • Permanent residents can lose their right to residency if they commit a crime
  • Permanent residents can lose residency status if they fail to inform USCIS of a change in address
  • Permanent residents can lose their right to residency If they commit an act of espionage or terrorism

Green cards expire every ten years, after which you'll be required to renew it.

Becoming a Naturalized Citizen

To become a naturalized citizen of the United States, you must maintain permanent residency for at least five years. It is best to apply for U.S. citizenship quickly after becoming eligible as a permanent resident, as this can help you to reduce your wait time. If you are accepted for naturalization, you will need to take a test on basic U.S. history and government. You'll also need to interview with the authorities, after which you'll take the Oath of Allegiance.

U.S. citizenship through naturalization is the highest status that an immigrant can achieve and gives you the permanent right to remain in the United States. You will be immune to deportability and entitled to all the rights and privileges of any natural-born citizen. The only way that a former immigrant can lose his or her status is if the authorities can prove that the individual lied on their citizenship application and should have their citizenship revoked.

U.S citizens have the rights to vote, and a longer list of foreign family members can be brought to the United States to join them. If you are interested in seeking assistance from an immigration attorney and working towards naturalization, don't hesitate to use this directory to find someone near you. Call today!

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