What’s the difference between citizen, immigrant, and permanent resident?

  • A U.S. citizen is someone who was born in the U.S. or to U.S. citizen parents, or someone who applies to become a citizen and gets naturalized.
  • An immigrant is anyone living in the U.S. who is not a U.S. citizen. Some immigrants have documents like green cards, or work visas, or other kinds of visas. Other immigrants are undocumented. That means they do not have a green card or other valid legal visa.
  • A lawful permanent resident (someone with a “green card”) is an immigrant with legal permission to live in the U.S. for as long as s/he wants to. Permanent residents get special cards that they must carry. (Cards issued since 2010 are green. Older “green cards” may be yellow or gold.)

What if Immigration arrests my relative or friend?

If you are an undocumented immigrant, do not go to an Immigration office or detention center to help your relative or friend. If you go, you may be arrested, too. If you want to pay a bond or send a message, ask someone who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to do it for you.