The United States permits foreign nationals to become permanent residents of the country. Over time, they can also obtain U.S. citizenship. But there are differences between permanent resident status and U.S. citizenship. Many believe that American residents are Americans and this is not true.
Residents are the immigrants who have been granted permission to live in the United States on permanent basis. Permanent resident status does not mean “nationality” and legal residents are not Americans.
People who were born in the United States and those who receive citizenship through naturalization are Americans. U.S. citizenship confers a variety of rights that are not applicable to the permanent residents.
Green cards are issued to eligible foreign nationals who wish to settle in the country. They need to renew their green cards and maintain their status in order to retain the legal status as it is revocable under certain circumstances.
U.S. citizenship is entirely different and Americans need not renew any documents to retain their status. U.S. citizenship will not be revoked for any reason. A citizen may voluntarily give up citizenship. Only U.S. citizens can get U.S. passports. They can and travel abroad and enter the country without restrictions.
The county grants several rights to the legal residents but they cannot get U.S. passports or travel abroad freely. They will lose their status if they stay abroad for more than six months. Green card holders need to get certain travel documents if they want to remain abroad for a long time. Whereas, Americans can travel abroad with their passports, reside in foreign countries for years and not lose their citizenship status if they do so.
To be considered an American, one must have been born in America. If not, he or she must have derived or acquired citizenship from a U.S. citizen parent(s). A person who was born abroad can become an American through naturalization. But to apply for naturalization a foreign national must be a permanent resident. He or she must have maintained his permanent resident status for a five year period and meet all the naturalization requirements.