The Differences between green cards and U.S. citizenships

People who stay and work in the United States regularly do so under two conditions: either they have the status of a green card holder or are American citizens. In both cases, a person has the right to stay and work in the United States. However, there are significant differences between the above statuses. The confusion about these differences is significant – some believe that the green card gives them similar rights to the rights of American citizens, some believe that it is an entry visa, and some believe that it is a status that can be obtained By lottery only.

In light of the great confusion, in the article here we will explain what each of the statuses means and what are the main differences that you should know about.


U.S. citizenship

U.S. citizenship is a status granted to an individual and defines his affiliation with the United States as a political system. American citizenship is one of the most coveted citizenships in the world both because it is political and economic power and because of the rights and benefits, it promises. These advantages and rights include:

  • A U.S. passport that allows free entry and exit from the United States, and free entry to over 180 other countries without the need for a visa.
  • The ability to transfer U.S. citizenship to children born outside the United States.
  • The right to choose and influence the political reality of the most powerful political force in the world.
  • The ability to work in the United States and enjoy unlimited employment and income opportunities, including working in the federal government (a closed sector for non-citizens).
  • Political and other protection at times of trouble around the world.
  • Various federal benefits such as tax returns and grants.

You can obtain U.S. citizen status in one of the following ways:


By Birth

Anyone born within the United States automatically receives U.S. citizenship.


Through citizenship of parents or grandparents

Given certain conditions, parents or even grandparents can transfer U.S. citizenship to their children by submitting an appropriate application and meeting the required conditions.



Acquiring U.S. citizenship in the absence of American family relations. An adult with permanent residency status in the United States can, after five years of stay in the United States, apply for naturalization. If the permanent resident has a spouse who is an American citizen, he or she can submit such a request after three years of stay. As part of the process, the applicant will submit a request accompanied by documents proving that he meets the legal conditions for obtaining citizenship. Furthermore, the applicant will be required to present basic knowledge of English and pass a knowledge test regarding American citizenship. At the end of the process, and if he finds that the applicant is a “moral and good person”, the applicant will receive a naturalization certificate and declare allegiance to the state.


Permanent resident

Permanent residency is a status that regulates the status of someone who is legally living and working within the United States but is not a citizen.

Permanent resident status can be obtained in one of three ways:


Through work

An employer will declare and prove that the employee (who is not American) is necessary for his workforce between skill, expertise, or any preference. From such a declaration, the foreign citizen will be given permanent residency.


Through family ties

Immediate relatives who are U.S. citizens can declare family ties, and on this basis, a request for a green card will be submitted.


Through an annual lottery

Once a year, the U.S. government draws a lottery between those seeking permanent residency status.

In each of these ways, it is necessary to apply for a green card. Except in the case of a lottery, this request will be accompanied by a statement from a sponsor (relative or employer). If the request is accepted, it will be sent to the American address you provided the green card.


Differences between green cards and U.S. citizenship

So, as we saw above, these are two very different statuses. While a green card holder is entitled to stay legally in the United States only in light of this visa and dependence on his stay in the country, U.S. citizenship is a permanent status. Thus, a permanent resident can stay and work in the United States as an American citizen, but he is not entitled to most of the rights described above that are held by U.S.citizens.

Here are some key differences:

  • A U.S. citizen is not in danger of revoking his citizenship even in the face of serious criminal acts. On the other hand, green card holders are at risk of ongoing deportation – changing their address without updating the government, involvement in criminal offenses, and even leaving the United States for an extended period of time, all of which may constitute grounds for deportation.
  • A U.S. citizen does not have to stay in the United States, with a green card whose visa depends on the center of his life being in the United States. A green card holder risks canceling his status if he stays outside the United States for an extended period of time. 
  • An American citizen is entitled to choose and be elected, as opposed to a green card holder who is not entitled to these rights.
  • A U.S. citizen is entitled to federal benefits such as child tax refunds and academic assistance. A green card holder is not entitled to these benefits.
  • A U.S. citizen holds an American passport and enjoys almost entirely free movement around the world. On the other hand, a green card holder does not have an American passport.
  • A U.S. citizen almost automatically transfers his citizenship to his children, as opposed to a green card holder who can be a green card sponsor for his family but cannot automatically transfer citizenship to them.


In summary

Permanent residency and U.S. citizenship are two different statuses, and so they are entitled to very different rights. Along with these rights, there are obligations as permanent residents of America or as American citizens. The MasAmerica team consists of American and Israeli accountants and lawyers who are well versed in all the tricks of the profession and will be happy to assist you with some of these obligations, with planning and tax advice that minimize and even nullify your tax liabilities.

This should not be seen as legal advice. It is recommended to consult with Masamerica’s team before any action. The service is provided by a professional team, who speak English and Hebrew, and includes lawyers and accountants with American licensees.

The aforesaid should not be regarded as legal advice. It is advisable to consult with the MasAmarika team before any action. The service is provided by a professional team, fluent in English and Hebrew, and includes attorneys and accountants with American licenses.

For American taxes consulting only
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