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Difference Between Green Card and Citizenship

Green Card holders and Citizenship are terms that grant foreign nationals the right to live and work in the United States of America. But the two of them are not interchangeable and differ on the basis of responsibilities, rights and benefits, among many other factors.

A Green Card holder, also known as a permanent resident, is someone who has been granted permission to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis while retaining the citizenship of their original country.

Citizenship is the highest status that can be granted under U.S. immigration law and offers the permanent right to live in the United States. 

Difference between Green Card an Citizenship - UPSC 20201

This article will further explain the difference between a Green Card holder and Citizenship within the context of the IAS Exam.

Green Card vs Citizenship – Key Differences

Given below is a tabulated difference between Green Card and Citizenship. UPSC aspirants can refer to the following points:

Difference between Green Card and Citizenship

Green Card


A Green Cardholder can avail a Social Security card which makes them eligible for social security benefits such as Medicare, supplemental security income A foreign national who is granted citizenship are eligible to vote in the US elections. A Green Card holder cannot do the same.
Green card holders can apply visas for their spouses and unmarried children so that they can reside in the United States Citizenship gives the ability to petition for foreign national spouses, married and unmarried children, siblings, and other relatives to live in the U.S
Green Card holders can travel outside the United States, but the time spent outside the country should not be prolonged as it can affect his/her residential status A US citizen can go travel outside the United States for a long period of time without any detrimental effect on their citizenship
Green Card holders can join certain branches of the United States Military but cannot join those Federal Agencies which require that only a US citizen can apply. Citizenship offers the right to work and apply in all branches of the US military as well as government agencies
A Green Card holder can be deported from the United States on the grounds of serious crimes, espionage or failing to inform the US government about a change in address. A US citizen will not be deported but his/her citizenship can be revoked if any fraud was committed when applying for citizenship
A foreign national can become a permanent resident through the following way:

  1. Family Sponsorship: Where a relative who is already a US citizen can sponsor the permanent resident process by proving the applicant belongs to the same family
  • Employer Sponsorship: Foreign nationals can also apply for U.S. permanent residency if they are sponsored by an employer.
  • U.S Green Card Lottery: While more difficult than the two previous options, it is possible to obtain U.S. permanent residency via the U.S. Green Card lottery, a government-sponsored program. 
Citizenship can be obtained through the following ways:

  • Naturalization: To become a naturalized U.S. citizen a Green Card needs to be obtained and once it is done so certain requirements such as speaking and writing basic English and having a moderate understanding of US civics and history.
  • Through marriage: A Green Card holder can obtain citizenship by marrying another US citizen
  • Military Service: By serving in certain branches of the US military, a foreign national can obtain citizenship

You can find similar topics by referring to the links given below:

For more difference between articles, visit the linked article.

Difference Between Green Card and Citizenship: UPSC Exam Notes – Download PDF Here

Frequently Asked Questions on Difference Between Green Card and Citizenship


Q 1. What is the key difference between citizenship and Green Card?

Ans. Green card is a resident card which is granted by the US authorities to a person having permanent residency in the United States for work and livelihood. It acts as an identity card. On the other hand, citizenship is a status recognized under the custom or law of a sovereign state or local jurisdiction for a person belonging to a specific state or region.

Q 2. What is the difference between a permanent resident and citizen?

Ans. Permanent residents are people living legally in a country for the purpose of work, whereas a citizen is someone who legally belongs to the country and is a legitimate passport holder of that country.

Q 3. Can a green card holder become a US citizen?

Ans. Yes, under certain specific requirements and eligibilities, a green card holder can become a US citizen. Someone with at least 3-5 years of owning a security card or due to military requirements can get US citizenship.

Aspirants can find the complete UPSC Syllabus through the linked article. More exam-related preparation materials will be found through the links given below:

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