Saturday, February 12, 2011

Green Card vs. US Citizenship

Return to India (R2I) decision becomes a moving target for many folks because of the desire to get a Green card or US Citizenship. I have heard many Indians say "I've stayed so long in this country... I would rather get my Green card before I go back". In the quest to learn more about the benefits of US Citizenship vs. Green Card, I started doing some reading (actually research).  Here is a summary of my findings.

(Also read: Going to US through a consultant on a H1B visa?   When is the right time to go to US? )
   
Green card provides you lawful permanent residency and allows you to live/work in US, on a permanent basis. US Citizenship makes you a citizen of the country, and eligible for almost all the benefits enjoyed by born citizens.

Residency Status Maintenance

When you move to another country, intending to live there permanently, you loose your Green Card privilege. Typically, this happens when you live outside US for more than a year without obtaining a re-entry permit. Government has the "authority" to invalidate your Green Card, for durations of stay less than a year outside the country. You need to file your tax returns when you are outside the country - failing which, your Green Card status may be at risk.

When you have a Green card, you've to keep UCSIS informed about your new address within 10 days of changing your address. (Also read: R2I Checklist for Change of address)

You don't have any of these issues when you have a US Citizenship. You can be living anywhere and for how long so ever. UCSIS recommends US Citizens to "register" with your nearest consulate, so that, they can help you in case of any emergencies.

Starting a business

When you have a Green Card, you can start your own business and corporation, like any other US Citizens. H1B visa holders are authorized to work for a 'specific' employer in US. So, they aren't authorized to start/run their own business.

Employment/Job

When you have a Green Card, you can join a company immediately after you get the offer, like US Citizens. You don't have to go through any hassle like H1B visa holders.

As a Green Card holder, you will have the right to apply for government jobs which do not require security clearance. Jobs that require security clearance are filled with US citizens only. (Also read:  R2I Job Search)

Travel

When you have a Green Card, you still need to obtain visa to travel to countries like Schengen nations in Europe. US Citizens don't require a visa when traveling to Schengen countries.

US Citizens are encouraged to register with the nearest US Consulate when they travel outside US, and be in a country for a long period. It helps UCSIS to reach them, in case of emergencies.  (Also read: Places to see in USA)

Immigration

When you have a Green Card, you don't have a "time limit" to stay within US (like US Citizens and unlike H1B visa holders). When you go through the immigration checkpoints in US, you won't get the funny questions from immigration officer "How long are you going to be here? & What is the nature of your visit".

Tax

With respect to Tax, there is no difference between Green Card holders and US Citizens. Tax laws are for the "residents" of United States. You are considered a resident of United States if you stay in the country for 183 days or longer. You're then qualified to pay tax.  (Also read: Filing tax returns in US after your R2I - Some tips)

Financial Aid / Mortgage

You can get loans from banks irrespective of whether you are a US Citizen or a Green Card holder. have a Financial institutions prefer Green Card Holders & US Citizens when issuing home loans - because of their "permanent residency" status.

Some of the financial aids given by Government are for US Citizens only.  (Also read: How much money is enough to R2I)

Right to Vote / Elections / Politics

Green card holders do not have the right to cast their vote in elections. However, folks with US Citizenship can vote. US Citizenship allows you to contest in elections, except for the post of United States President - a President must be a US born citizen (Yes ! Arnold schwarzenegger isn't qualified to be the President of US). Immigrants are not eligible to run for the office of President, no matter how long they have lived in the country. However, your kid born in US is eligible to contest for the post of United States President :)

Green Card holders & US Citizens can make financial contributions to politics, whereas foreigners/visa holders cannot.  

(Disclaimer: I haven't taken any effort to verify the legal accuracy of this article. Please consult with your attorney for accurate details)

References

Retaining Green Card
Pre-requisites to become a US President
Benefits of Green Card
Tax Topic - Resident & Non-Resident Aliens
Green Card Renewal
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program for US Citizens

1 comment:

  1. Holding a green card in the US means eligibility for permanent residency, whereas Citizenship includes permanent residency as well as a few privileges in addition to this.
    L-1 Visa Lawyer

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