We have to remember that there is a difference between the U.S. green card and U.S. citizenship. Even though green card holders and citizens stay in the country without definite time, there are important reasons to secure a U.S. citizenship.
The first step to stay in the U.S. is to have a permanent resident status. This status is usually obtained for various reasons such as being petitioned by an employer or close family member, being a refugee or asylum, or being a winner of the diversity visa lottery, and more.
Those who are green card holders must wait for a certain period of time before they can apply for U.S. citizenship by means of the naturalization process. There are other ways for people to become U.S. citizens. It includes being born in the U.S., being born overseas to a U.S. citizen parent and living in the U.S. as a child when a parent has undergone the naturalization process.
Let us talk about the only way that a person can go straight from having no U.S. immigration status to being a U.S. citizen is through joining the U.S. military. This is described in "U.S. Citizenship Rights for U.S. Military Personnel and Veterans."
U.S. Green Card to U.S. Citizenship
The literal color of the photo identity card of a person who just becomes a lawful permanent resident is green. The indication of receiving the card is for the recipient to legally live and work in the U.S. permanently, to travel and return to the country, and to petition for specific close family members to also receive the said green photo identity cards.
Even though green card holders can live and work in the country, there are things that they can’t do just like the U.S. citizens. They can’t exercise the right to suffrage or they can’t simple vote during elections. They cannot stay long outside the U.S. for unlimited amounts of time or make their home elsewhere because it will result in abandonment of their residency and refusal of their request to reenter the United States. If they fail to advise U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of changes in their address, or if they committing crimes or acts of espionage or terrorism, it is clear that they can lose their residency rights.
Aside from that, green card holders can’t always get the same assistance and benefits from the government that U.S. citizens can. In that sense, many federal programs implement a five-year waiting period before green card holders begin to receive benefits. No wonder it is highly recommended for permanent residents to apply for U.S. citizenship as soon as possible.
Rights and Benefits of Having U.S. Citizenship
Under U.S. immigration law, the highest status that someone can obtain is U.S. citizenship. The meaning of the said status is having a permanent right to live in the United States. However, if the person committed fraud in obtaining the said immigrant’s citizenship status it can be taken away from him.
In addition, U.S. citizens can vote, and can petition for a longer list of foreign national family members to join them in the U.S. compared to permanent residents. For instance, unlike green card holders, they can petition for their parents, their married children, and more subject to specific rules.