Once someone legally enters the United States, they generally have two main options if they would like to stay indefinitely. The first option is to cure a Permanent Resident Card or Green Card that allows them to live and work in the country. The second and typically more complicated option involves naturalization. Those who successfully complete the process become naturalized citizens.

Many people choose to become permanent residents instead of citizens because naturalization requires learning English and passing a test. However, there are also significant differences between the rights and privileges of citizens and those of permanent residents.

What are the limits on the rights of permanent residents?

Someone living in the U.S. with a Green Card can sponsor a spouse, parent or unmarried minor children for immigration. They can also rent or own property, start a business, work in a job and raise a family.

However, there are certain things they cannot do. They cannot run for public office, nor can they vote. They also cannot secure a U.S. passport. Not having a passport could make it hard, if not impossible, to secure visas for some international travel destinations. Also, if they leave the U.S. for more than a year, they could risk losing their Green Card.

If you qualify for naturalization, it can certainly be worthwhile. Once you become a citizen, you will have more options and rights than a permanent resident. However, it’s essential to understand the naturalization process. Whether you are seeking to become a permanent resident or a naturalized citizen, an experienced attorney can provide valuable information and guidance.