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.)