Difference Between Citizen and Permanent Resident

Many people use the terms citizen and permanent resident interchangeably. But if you carefully look into the statuses you shall notice a fundamentally important difference.

Citizen vs Permanent Resident

The main difference between citizen and permanent resident is that citizens are allowed to leave and reenter the country without any restriction, whereas a permanent resident might need reentry permission.

Citizen vs Permanent Resident

Having the status of Permanent Resident legally grants you to stay in the country for an indefinite period.

But they have some limitations compared to the citizens of the country. If you leave the country for more than a year or so you can be placed in a removal procedure and can be risked of deporting the country.

Citizens are the ones who are born in the country or any of the parents are from that country, the child gets the citizenship. They have the right to obtain a passport and vote.


Comparison Table Between Citizen and Permanent Resident (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonCitizenPermanent Resident
CharacterHe or she is born in the country and has all sorts of rights and freedom to live and work independently.A permanent resident is allowed to live in the country for an indefinite period with some restrictions.
Voting rightsCitizens have the right to vote and elect the leaders of their country.A permanent resident has no voting rights.
FreedomAs a citizen of the country, you can leave and reenter the country whenever you wish with your passport.But a permanent resident has no passport and he needs a re-entry permit.
AbandonmentYou cannot be abandoned unless you commit a serious crime.You can be deported from the country for any wrong step, even if you stay outside the country for more than a year.
FamilyIf you are the citizen of the country your family members are automatically granted the rights of citizenship.You need special permission from the authorities to bring in your family members if you are the sole earner of the family.


Who is Citizen?

Citizenship refers to a person’s commitment to the government in exchange for its auspices at home and abroad. By birth, a person officially meets the required criteria to be a citizen.

As a citizen, you have certain benefits and responsibilities to go through. At the same time, you shall keep in mind not to violate any law which shall lead you to inadmissibility.

Benefits you have as a citizen –

  1. You have political rights including the right to vote, hold public office, and civil liberties.
  2. Protection from deportation
  3. Citizenship of family members
  4. Eligibility for all government jobs
  5. Freedom to travel
  6. Can obtain a passport.
  7. Can become a permanent resident in any other country for less than 5 years.

Responsibilities as a citizen –

  1. You shall obey and abide by the federal, state, and local laws.
  2. You need to pay tax to your government.
  3. You are not allowed to perform any criminal work against the country.
  4. Serve on a jury
  5. Participate in community works.
  6. Register with selective service.

Who is Permanent Resident?

Permanent residency is a person’s resident status in a country. They are not considered citizens but they have the right to reside permanently for an indefinite period.

A permanent resident remains a citizen of another country. So any time you travel you shall carry the passport of that country and the green card as well.

Limitations as a permanent resident –

  1. You don’t have voting and other electoral rights.
  2. You cannot stay away from the country for more than one year, this shall lead to inadmissibility.
  3. If you commit certain crimes or violate security laws you shall be deported from the country.
  4. You cannot apply for government jobs
  5. You have to pay a higher rate of taxes.

Benefits of being a permanent resident –

  1. You need not change your existing nationality and renew your green card if necessary.
  2. You can work freely without worrying about the jury and selective service.

The most important benefit of a permanent resident is that – if you show a good moral character and abide by the laws you can apply for citizenship and passport after 5 years of your stay.

permanent resident

Main Differences Between Citizen and Permanent Resident

The key differences between these two terms are listed below:

  1. Citizens are the persons that are living in the country by birth whereas Permanent resident is a legal person to reside in the country for a specified time by some special permission.
  2. You are allowed to travel freely carrying the passport, but a permanent resident needs to carry both the original passport and green card. Moreover staying more than one year away from the country leads you to abandonment.
  3. As a citizen, you have to pay taxes as well as attend the jury, selective service, community works. But a permanent resident is free from all these assignments.
  4. Citizens have the right to vote and elect public officials and civil liberties. But it is not applicable for permanent residents.
  5. Citizens can apply for any jobs, especially government jobs but permanent residents are not permitted to do so.



So, which one do you feel is the right fit for you -citizen or permanent resident? Always make sure that both these terms link to responsibility and they expect you to abide by the laws at no cost.

So keeping a Green card can be a wiser method by which you can keep your original nationality and renew your residency for work.

Though citizenship gives you protection to your assets which is not available as a permanent resident.

Thus now you have a clear concept of these two social terms. Choose wisely!

Key Differences Between Citizen and Permanent Resident (PDF Format)

Download the key differences in .PDF format, to read or print them later:

Difference Between Citizen and Permanent Resident



  1. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/citizenship/
  2. https://isso.ucsf.edu/permanent-resident
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