Permanent resident or citizen: what is the difference?

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When moving to a new country, people often encounter terms like “permanent resident” and “citizen.” Although both statuses allow you to legally reside in a country, they carry distinct rights, responsibilities and implications.

Permanent resident status

Permanent resident status (also known as “Green card” in the United States) is a legal designation granted to foreign nationals in many countries. It signifies a right of long-term residence in the host country, with certain limitations. Here are some key characteristics of lawful permanent resident status:

  • Residency rights: Permanent residents are allowed to live and work in the host country indefinitely, provided they comply with laws and regulations. They have the right to reside in the territory of the country but may have to periodically renew their residency status. For example, US green cards expire and must be renewed every 10 years.
  • Work and study: Permanent residents generally have the freedom to work and study in the host country without the need for additional permits. Some jobs, particularly those with security clearance or government positions, may be reserved for citizens.
  • Access to social services: Permanent residents are entitled to various social services such as health, education and social welfare programs, similar to citizens. However, there may be some differences in eligibility criteria or benefits offered between permanent residents and citizens.
  • Journey: Although permanent residents can travel freely within the host country, they may be subject to restrictions on international travel. They usually need a valid passport (from their country of nationality) and a permanent resident card or equivalent document to re-enter the country after traveling abroad. For more information, Boundless has developed a guide on travel outside the United States as a green card holder.
  • Pathway to Citizenship: In most countries, permanent residents have the option of apply for citizenship after meeting certain residency requirements, such as living in the country for a specified period and successfully completing a citizenship test.

In one look

Having work and travel authorization provides flexibility and peace of mind, allowing you to maintain your livelihood and travel if necessary without jeopardizing your green card application. But filling out additional forms incurs additional costs And additional tasks during the green card process.

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Citizenship

Citizenship represents the highest legal status of a country, providing full rights, privileges and responsibilities. Unlike permanent resident status, citizenship is generally acquired by birth, ancestry or naturalization. Here are some key attributes that distinguish citizenship from permanent residence:

  • Right to vote: Citizens have the fundamental right to participate in the democratic process by voting in elections and referendums. This right is exclusive to citizens and is not extended to permanent residents or other non-citizen residents.
  • Passport and consular protection: Citizens have the right to obtain a passport from their country of citizenship, which facilitates international travel and provides consular protection and assistance abroad.
  • Eligibility for public service: Citizens can run for office and hold positions in government. These positions are reserved exclusively for citizens due to their importance in shaping national policies and governance.
  • Permanent residence for the family: Citizens often have the opportunity to sponsor family members to obtain permanent residency or citizenship in their country. This provision facilitates family reunification and constitutes one of the advantages of citizenship.
  • Allegiance and obligations: Citizens owe allegiance to their country and are also subject to its laws, regulations and duties. These functions could include military service (in countries where conscription is compulsory), taxation and jury duty. These obligations are intrinsic to citizenship and help distinguish citizens from non-citizens.

In one look

Having work and travel authorization provides flexibility and peace of mind, allowing you to maintain your livelihood and travel if necessary without jeopardizing your green card application. But filling out additional forms incurs additional costs And additional tasks during the green card process.

The essential

Although permanent residents and citizens have legal permission to reside in a country, they differ significantly in terms of rights, privileges and obligations.

Permanent resident status provides long-term residency, but does not provide all of the benefits and responsibilities associated with citizenship. Citizenship, on the other hand, represents deeper integration into a country, with rights such as voting and eligibility for public office, as well as obligations like allegiance and military service.

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