Many people first come to the United States with a visa, although this is a short-term resource. For instance, a student visa will expire if someone drops out of school or graduates. Visa holders, therefore, may seek a more long-term solution if they want to stay in the United States.
Two potential solutions involve becoming a U.S. citizen or becoming a permanent resident by getting a green card. There are significant differences between these two options.
A green card expires
One of the main differences is that citizenship lasts for life. A green card usually only lasts for a maximum of 10 years. It can be renewed, so there are people who spend decades in the United States, renewing their green card and remaining as permanent residents. But someone who becomes a citizen does not have to worry about documentation related to their status expiring at all.
Citizens have additional rights
One of the benefits of becoming a citizen, over having permanent resident status, is that it provides some additional rights. For instance, citizens have a right to vote.
Those who get a green card often need to have someone petition for them, such as a family member or perhaps even an employer. As a citizen, someone would be able to petition for permanent resident status for someone else. For example, an adult child who becomes a U.S. citizen may petition to have their parent receive permanent resident status and join them in the U.S.
Benefits of both
Of course, there are also benefits that apply in either scenario. For instance, both citizens and permanent residents have the right to work or attend school. They are also eligible for some types of benefits from the state and they’re allowed to leave and re-enter the country without putting their status in question – although green card holders cannot leave for more than a year without a reentry permit, while citizens are free to do as they wish.
Changing your status
Are you considering changing your status so that you can stay in the United States long-term? As you can see, there are a lot of specifics to consider, so it’s important for you to know exactly what legal steps you should take moving forward. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to get started.