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Differences between US citizens, lawful permanent residents

The topic of immigration has long been a contentious one in the U.S. Despite the fact that this country was built on the idea that it should be a place for "huddled masses yearning to breathe free," immigration continues to be a thorny, complicated issue. Too many people see the issue as a black-and-white one: people are either citizens or living here unlawfully.

However, there are numerous statuses people can have which give them different rights, options and protections. For example, there are many differences between being a U.S. citizen and being a Lawful Permanent Resident. Knowing what these are can help people understand what, if any, restrictions are in place and therefore hopefully avoid violations or legal issues. 

Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents are all granted the right to live and work in the U.S. legally.

There are several limitations for people who are LPR, however. For instance, a LPR cannot vote, have a U.S. passport, become an elected official or qualify for federal financial aid grants. Further, unless a person is a citizen, he or she can still be deported or lose their green card.

Being a U.S. citizen through birth or naturalization, however, means that a person will not be held to these same limitations. Additionally, citizenship can be an important sign of patriotism and willingness to take on the responsibilities of being a U.S. citizen.

Even though both statuses make a person a lawful resident of the U.S., there are some distinct differences between them. Unfortunately, it can be easy to assume they mean the same thing and people often confuse the two, which can and does lead to issues regarding what a person can and cannot do.

If you are a Lawful Permanent Resident of the U.S. and have questions or concerns about your status or options for naturalization, it can be wise to consult an attorney familiar with U.S. citizenship and immigration laws to avoid or minimize any potential legal issues.

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Our firm is a recognized leader in immigration law and litigation. We handle the spectrum from family and employment-based visas to deportation defense and immigration appeals. Founding partner Ira Kurzban authored the Immigration Law Sourcebook, widely used by immigration lawyers, judges and government officials as the authoritative field reference.

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