Differences in Legal Residency and Citizenship
Many pathways exist for immigrants to reside legally in the United States, including becoming citizens. However, citizenship and legal residency are sometimes different.
Understanding the best status for you as you pursue legal residency, and perhaps eventually citizenship, is key to filling out the correct applications, ensuring you don’t leave the country at a time it could jeopardize your status, and more.
What Are The Pros Of Legal Residency vs. Citizenship?
The United States offers green cards to immigrants who meet specific criteria, enabling them to become lawful permanent residents. The US grants green card holders the right to live in the United States indefinitely, even their entire life. However, when weighing the pros and cons of residency vs. citizenship, citizenship offers a more stable and secure place in America.
Legal residents have the right to work in the US and can petition for close family members, such as their spouse and unmarried children, to receive green cards. However, only a limited amount of family members are granted these immigrant visas each year. Sometimes, it could take up to five years for them to be allowed to enter the US.
A big con of legal residency is if you spend more than six months outside the US, authorities may start to evaluate your status. If you spend one year outside of the country, it will be assumed you abandoned your residency. Re-entering the country may be challenging, and you’ll have to face the grounds of admissibility, just as you did when you applied for a green card.
However, legal residency status offers a pathway to citizenship. After five years of legally living in the United States, legal residents may apply for US citizenship. But you will need to display good moral character, and any infraction, such as a DUI, could jeopardize your status.
The biggest pro of being a US citizen is you are permanently a US citizen; any infraction or travel plans will not affect your status. In addition, you’ll have a United States passport, you can vote, and you have an unlimited amount of petitions you can make to allow family members to join you, including your parents and siblings.
What Should I Do If I Want To Become A Legal Citizen?
Whether you want to become a legal resident or eventually a citizen, employing an experienced immigration attorney can help you expedite the process and ensure you make your best case for residency or citizenship on your first attempt.
Fay, Grafton, & Nunez has an experienced team who are very familiar with the ever-changing immigration laws in the United States. We offer $200 immigration constellations to prospective new clients to help you understand your best pathway to legal residency here in the US.