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Citizens vs Permanent Residents in the U.S.

The United States is a huge melting pot of different cultures; everyday there are more people coming here from different parts of the world.  When this happens, there are different legal statuses that they can receive. 

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    The United States is a huge melting pot of different cultures; everyday there are more people coming here from different parts of the world.  When this happens, there are different legal statuses that they can receive.  All of this can be quite confusing, as there are various processes, paperwork, and questions that people have about their status.  One of the frequent questions that we receive is about the difference between citizens and permanent residents.

    U.S. Citizens vs Permanent Residents

    U.S. Citizens

    There are different ways to obtain citizenship, with some being easier than others.  If you were not born in the United States, but have at least one parent that is a citizen, then you will be granted citizenship as well.  For those who don’t have a parent to help them with citizenship, though, the process is a bit more confusing.

    To obtain citizenship, you must go through a process called naturalization.  This process involves completing your application with the proper documents, evidence and photos, attending a biometrics appointment (to get fingerprints, photo, and signature), having a naturalization interview, and taking the oath of allegiance.

    Once granted citizenship, more rights are gained.  Among these is the ability to get a U.S. passport and also be able to leave and reenter the U.S. whenever you want.  This is very important for those who want to return to their home country to visit their family, or just be able to travel without having to worry about requesting a reentry permit.  Citizenship also makes you eligible to vote in national, state, and local elections.  

    Lastly, it also means that the process for family members to move to the United States will be easier.  You can sponsor spouses, parents and unmarried children under the age of 21.  Although they still have to apply, it’s a way easier process when they have a sponsor.

    Permanent Residents

    If you’re a permanent resident, it means you can legally live in the United States indefinitely.  There are different ways to obtain this status, including sponsorship from family members or employers, qualifying as a special immigrant (religious workers or international broadcasters, for instance), and extraordinary circumstances (such as seeking asylum).  Depending on which route you take, the process may vary.  When applying, you or your sponsor must complete your immigrant petition, fill out forms, pay the filing fee, schedule a biometrics services appointment, and have an interview.

    If you get approved, then that means that you can legally work in the United States.  Similarly to citizens, this also means that you can petition for family members to come live in the U.S.  That being said, the process usually takes longer, as there is a limited number of people who can be approved each year.  Furthermore, one of the big differences is that permanent residents still have citizenship in their home country.  This has its benefits and drawbacks, depending on your situation.

    Lastly, permanent residents can also have a “conditional” status.  So, what is a conditional permanent resident?  It’s someone who was granted permanent resident status on a conditional basis.  For example, if you’re a spouse of a U.S. citizen or you’re an immigrant investor, you will likely fall into this category.  The difference is that this is a 2-year residency status.  Before the two years are over, you must apply for permanent residency status.

    Changing Your Legal Status

    If you want to adjust your legal status, we’ll gladly help you with the application process.  There are many steps to take and forms to fill out so it’s important that everything is done properly to improve your chances of getting approved.  To talk with one of our immigration lawyers, give us a call!  We speak English, Spanish, and Arabic in order to better help you.

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