What is the Difference Between Permanent Residency and Naturalization?

The immigration system can be incredibly complicated at times, and one particular point of confusion for many people is the difference between permanent residency and naturalization. However, the legal distinction is extremely important, and can have a significant impact on the potential consequences you may face if you ever find yourself in legal trouble. So what is the difference between being a permanent resident, and being a naturalized citizen?

Defining Permanent Residency

Permanent residency status, also known as “green card” status, is an immigration status you can get if you fit one of several categories and legally reside in the United States(depending on what qualifies you to get a green card). A permanent resident can legally stay in the United States indefinitely, legally work in the United States, and otherwise benefit from most of the rights and protections normally afforded to U.S. citizens. However, if they are ever found to commit a serious crime or violate the terms of their permanent residency, their legal immigration status can be terminated and they may face deportation proceedings. You can also abandon your residency if you leave the country for too long.

Defining Naturalization

On the other hand, naturalization is the process of making a permanent resident into a full-fledged U.S. citizen. You must have lived continuously in the United States for at least five years (or three years based on marriage to a U.S. citizen), you must show good moral character, and you must pass a citizenship test to demonstrate knowledge of the United States and its laws. If you complete that process, however, you will be a naturalized U.S. citizen.

The Distinction Between the Two

    Once someone has been naturalized, they are legally a U.S. citizen, and normally cannot be deported. Typically, the only way a naturalized citizen will face removal from the U.S. is if they are found to have lied on their naturalization paperwork. On the other hand, a permanent resident can be legally removed if they commit a “crime of moral turpitude,” which includes serious crimes like murder, rape, arson, drug trafficking, or a variety of other similar offenses. Permanent residents also need to renew their legal status once every ten years, and cannot live outside the U.S. for more than six months without prior authorization from USCIS.

Getting Permanent Residency or Naturalization

If you are legally in the United States and are interested in obtaining permanent residency or becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, you should not try to do it alone. These processes are long and complicated, and any mistake could cost you a significant amount of time, money, and stress. That is why you should speak to an immigration lawyer, who can help you with your application and assist you with any trouble you may face.

For more than 40 years, the Drucker Law Firm has been providing personal and quality legal services to individuals, universities, and corporations throughout the New York City and Tri-State area. We have represented three generations of clients in personal injury cases, as well as immigration, real estate, and general litigation matters. If you have a legal issue related to personal injury law, please give us a call at (718) 458-1489 to schedule a consultation or visit our contact page.

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Temporary Protected Status Temporary Protected Status
We have extensive experience representing clients who are eligible for Temporary Protected Status
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We can help you get permanent residency (green card) through family-based immigrant visas and employment-based immigrant visas.
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We defend individuals who have been placed in removal/deportation proceedings.
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We help clients determine which visa category is right for them and assist them with the petition and visa processing.
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