Generally speaking, when new immigrants move to the United States, they may feel that they are fulfilling a dream. Yet, once they arrive, they may find themselves in an environment that is entirely foreign to them. Starting with the language, immigrants might face many significant barriers that may end up making it hard for them to adapt to their new country. They may also be unfamiliar with the way Americans dress, drive, eat, socialize, or simply live their lives.
Does being a permanent resident or a citizen amount to the same thing?
The main similarity between citizens and permanent residents is that both are allowed to live and work legally in the United States. However, there are also some distinct differences between the two regarding rights and responsibilities.
What does it mean to be a permanent resident?
As a foreign national, you may be granted permanent residence. This legal status will allow you to live and work in this country indefinitely. You can live and work in any state and in any occupation. You also have the right to retain the citizenship of your country of origin.
What are your rights as a permanent resident?
Your rights as a permanent resident are:
- The right to receive a Social Security card, which in turn makes you eligible to receive social security benefits
- The right to apply for visas for your spouse and minor children so that they can move to the United States
- The right to serve in certain branches of the U. S. military
- The right to make temporary or brief trips to any country you like without affecting your resident status
- The right to receive federal assistance from a variety of federal programs such as SNAP or TANF
What are your responsibilities as a permanent resident?
Your responsibilities as a permanent resident are:
- You must follow all federal, state and local laws.
- You must file your U. S. income tax returns.
- You must support democracy.
- You are obligated to alert the USCIS if you change your address.
Is there anything you cannot do as a permanent resident?
There are certain things that as a permanent resident you cannot do, such as vote in federal and state elections, travel outside of the country for an extended period of time (it could put your resident status in jeopardy) or be eligible to receive federal assistance until you have been a permanent resident for at least five years.
Can you become a U. S. citizen once you have become a permanent resident?
Yes, you can. To become an American citizen, you must be at least 18 years of age and have had your permanent resident status for at least five years. You must file form N-400 and demonstrate that you have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the last five years prior to filing. Additionally, you must:
- Be able to read, speak, and write basic English.
- Show good moral character.
- Have a basic understanding of U. S. civics and history
- Support and defend the principles and ideals of the Constitution
If you want to become a permanent resident or wish to apply for citizenship, groups like the Florida Immigration Law Counsel may be able to help you make that happen.