Understanding the difference between a green card and citizenship

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2023 | Blog, Immigration |

Moving to a new country is an exciting and complex process. One of the main considerations of an international move is the legal status you will hold in your new home.

In the United States, you can choose between two primary statuses: a green card holder and a citizen. Each comes with its own set of benefits, responsibilities and limitations.

Green cards

A green card grants you the status of a lawful permanent resident in the United States. This means you have the right to live and work in the country indefinitely. As a green card holder, you enjoy many of the same rights as citizens, such as the ability to own property and receive protection under U.S. law. However, you cannot vote in federal elections, and certain jobs are off-limits, specifically those that require a security clearance.

Another important distinction is that, while a green card offers permanency, it is conditional. If you commit certain crimes or fail to advise the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of changes in your address, you may lose your status. Moreover, if you stay outside the US for too long, the government can consider your green card abandoned.


Citizenship, on the other hand, provides all the benefits of a green card holder and more. As a citizen, you have the right to vote in federal elections and can run for public office. You can apply for jobs that require security clearance and have access to a U.S. passport, which facilitates international travel.

One significant advantage of citizenship over a green card is its permanence. Once you become a citizen, you cannot lose your status unless it was fraudulently obtained. You are free to live overseas without fear of abandoning your status. However, you also owe certain obligations to the United States, such as potentially serving on a jury and, in some cases, serving in the military.

Understanding these key differences between a green card and citizenship can help you make an informed decision about your future in the United States. Consider your long-term plans, commitment to living in the US and your comfort with the responsibilities that come with each status.