Difference between US Green Card and US Citizenship

Key Difference:  U.S. Green Card and U.S. Citizenship are two ways of acquiring long term rights to stay and work in the United States. A green card holder can live and work in the United States. U.S. citizenship provides more benefits in addition to the ones enjoyed by the green card holders. It provides the right to vote in America. U.S. Citizenship provides other rights too like a citizen can live abroad for a long period of time, etc.

U.S. Green Card is issued by the U.S. immigration authorities to the non U.S. citizens. It provides the authority to these people to stay and work in the United States. One can apply for this card through family, employer or for some other reasons for example - one can file a petition to live in the United States if a person is directly related to a U.S. Citizen. One can also get a green card through a job offer or an investment that creates new jobs in the United States. A self-petition by distinguished individuals can also get a green card for them. The annual card lottery program also selects 55,000 applicants randomly and then they are issued the Green Card.

U.S. Citizenship can be attained at birth or after birth. One becomes a lawful citizen of the United States if he or she is born in the United States or certain territories which are under the jurisdiction of the United States. A child also gains this citizenship if his or her parent or parents are already citizens at the time of the birth of the child. They must fulfill some other requirement also. Another way to become a citizen after birth is by two processes- One is to avail the citizenship through the process of derived citizenship via parents or by applying for naturalization. Naturalization interview consists of two important tests: English and civics.

The process of naturalization is followed by those who fulfill the requirements by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act. Benefits of Green Card Holder include the ability to leave or enter Unites States with no risk attached of receiving denial for entry. It provides the right to apply for government sponsored financial aid for education. They also pay less tuition fee for University and Colleges. They are able to work in any company located in the United States. They can also start their own business or create own corporation. After working for 10 years before retiring, they also can avail the social security benefits after retirement. They are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.

The most important right associated with the US citizenship is the voting. They are prioritized when petitioning to bring their family members permanently to this country. Their children get the citizenship automatically. They can also apply to federal jobs.

Unlike U.S. Citizenship holder, Green Card holders are not eligible to vote in the U.S. They can not stay outside the country for unlimited amount of time or make their home in some other country. In these situations, one may be asked to give up the residency rights. It is always advised to apply for U.S. citizenship for permanent residents for enjoying more rights as it is the highest status attained by one under U.S. immigration law. It does not suffer from deportability concerns which are always a risk for green card holders.

Comparison between US Green Card and US Citizenship:


U.S. Green Card

U.S. Citizenship


Green card is the card which is issued by the US immigration authorities to non-U.S. citizens authorizing them to live and work within the borders of the United States.

U.S. citizenship provides more rights in comparison to green card.

Ways to get it

  • Sponsorship by an employer
  • Sponsorship by a close family member in the United States
  • Investment by Alien Entrepreneur
  • Diversity Lottery
  • Immigration through Asylum or Refugee status
  • Though Registry provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act

At birth –

  • Being born in the United States
  • Having parent or parents who were citizens at the time of the birth


  • Applying for derived citizenship through parents
  • Applying for naturalization

Issuing Authority

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.



Permanent (however, must be renewed after every ten years)


Some important rights

Live in the United States

Leave and reenter the country

Work in the United States

Right to vote

Live in the United States

Leave and reenter the country

Work in the United States

Government benefits as citizens

Immigration for family members

Federal jobs

Sponsorship to parents and children

Not eligible


Image Courtesy: emigratesafe.com, zazzle.com

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