Difference between a Green Card and a U.S. Citizenship

December 7, 2016 by Editorial Team

The U.S. is culturally and ethnically diverse because of the number of immigrants flocking into its states. However, this does not mean that the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement allows all immigrants to freely fly in and stay in America. In fact, it has set regulations on who can legally enter and live in the US.

While a U.S. green card and a U.S. citizenship share a lot of similarities, they still have notable differences.


Green Card vs U.S. Citizenship
A photo of a green card, also known as a legal residency card

A green card is a legal residency card that permits an immigrant to work and live in the U.S. Obtaining a U.S. green card is the first step towards attaining permanent residency in America.

An immigrant can get a green card in 3 different ways. First, they can receive full sponsorship from a family member, a spouse or an employer. Second, they can do so by obtaining a refugee status. And finally, they can obtain a green card by winning a lottery for a diversity visa.

Aside from working and permanently residing in the U.S., green card holders can travel and return to America as long as they follow the time restrictions set by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Also, they can petition for family members who want to work and live in the country.

U.S. Citizenship
Immigrants taking an oath for the naturalization ceremony in the United States

Meanwhile, a U.S. citizenship is the highest form of citizenship in America. U.S. citizens can work and live in the country for an indefinite period of time. Also, they can travel outside the country without restrictions. They are not subject to any grounds of deportation, but their citizenship can be revoked if they have committed fraudulence during their citizenship application.

A citizenship is granted to those who were born in the United States, those who were born abroad to U.S. citizen parents, those who joined the U.S. Army, and children who are living in the U.S. while their parents are undergoing naturalization. Additionally, green card holders with a good legal standing for 5 years can apply for citizenship.

Green Card vs U.S. Citizenship

What’s the difference between a green card and a U.S. citizenship? While both green card holders and U.S. citizens can work and permanently reside in America, the main difference revolves around the regulations set by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Unlike U.S. citizens, green card holders are subject to grounds of deportation, especially if they have committed crimes or participated in any act of terrorism. Also, they are only allowed to travel out of the country within a regulated amount of time. Non-compliance can result in deportation.

U.S. citizens, on the other hand, are not subject to deportation. Their citizenship can be revoked, however, if they have committed fraudulent acts during their citizenship application. They can freely travel and return to the United States without worrying about any regulations.

Another notable difference is the method of obtaining a green card and a U.S. citizenship. Since the latter is the highest form of citizenship, it is more challenging for immigrants to obtain.

Lastly, U.S. citizens have the same rights as green card holders. However, unlike green card holders, citizens are legally permitted to vote in federal elections and submit petitions for distant relatives. They can also submit petitions for their in-laws.

Comparison Chart

Green CardU.S. Citizenship
Subject to deportation groundsOnly subject to revocation of citizenship due to fraudulence during application
Can travel outside the country within a restricted amount of timeCan travel and return to the U.S. without restrictions
Only allowed to vote in local or state elections that do not require U.S. citizenshipPermitted to vote in federal elections
Able to petition for spouse and children under 21 years oldAble to petition for distant relatives and in-laws