Key Immigration Terms That Are Often Mistaken
Key immigration terms that are often mistaken include thinking that being a resident of the U.S. or being a green card holder is equivalent to being a citizen of the U.S. It is important to note that being a citizen and a green card holder varies. One of the major differences is the ability to vote in all elections. Only a U.S. Citizen has the right to vote.
A simplified definition of a U.S. Citizen is a person born anywhere in the United States or its territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Also, a person born in another country and then naturalized (through Naturalization) is a U.S. citizen. Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a lawful permanent resident after meeting the requirements established by the Immigration Nationality Act (INA). One can also acquire U.S. citizenship by one’s U.S. citizen parents, either at birth or after birth, but before 18 years old.
A Resident of the U.S., also known as a green card holder, is a lawful permanent resident (LPR). They are non-citizens who are lawfully authorized to live permanently within the United States. LPRs may apply to become U.S. citizens if they meet specific eligibility requirements. The INA stipulates several ways in which a person can become an LPR acquiring an immigrant visa, mainly through family reunification and, to some extent, economic and humanitarian reasons.
The status of being an immigrant versus a nonimmigrant in the U.S. is based on the immigrant visa and nonimmigrant visa categories. Immigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals who intend to permanently live in the United States, i.e., green card holders or lawful permanent residents. Hence, LPRs are considered immigrants.