Being a lawful permanent resident gives you a more secure status than a temporary visa can. Visas eventually expire, requiring you to leave the country. With your permanent resident card or green card, you can stay in the United States indefinitely, provided that you continue to meet certain criteria.
Permanent residents can work, own property and even help their family members enter the United States. However, the rights of permanent residents do not quite match the rights of natural-born and naturalized citizens.
Becoming a U.S. citizen extends more rights and civil responsibilities to you, including the right to vote, the right to run for certain public offices and even the right to serve as a juror in a criminal trial. Naturalized citizens also have more options for helping their loved ones enter the country. If you have a green card but want to become a citizen, how long do you have to wait to take the next step?
You must meet certain standards before you apply
When you apply to begin the process of naturalization, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will look closely at your circumstances. You will need to pass a background check.
With rare exceptions, permanent residents who seek citizenship must wait five years from the date they receive their green card to apply for naturalization. They must be residents of the United States for at least five full years. The USCIS also requires at least 30 months of continual physical presence in the United States.
Once you apply for naturalization, you will have to take tests in the English language and civics. You will also need to take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
Naturalization is the logical next step if you plan to stay forever
Being a permanent resident is a success on its own, but it does have limitations. There is always the risk that a conviction for offenses that are considered to be crimes of moral turpitude could lead to deportation, even when you have your green card.
Between enhanced immigration opportunities for your loved ones and more stability for yourself, pursuing naturalization is a practical decision for those born abroad but living in the United States.