If you were not born on U.S soil, or outside the United States to at least one U.S. citizen parent, or naturalized, or have become automatically naturalized because you were a child when your parent(s) became citizen(s), then the United States classifies you as an “alien.” An alien is merely the legal term for any non-citizen in the United States. Any person who is not a U.S. citizen is an alien.
It does not matter what status you may have while in the U.S. You are an alien as far as immigration is concerned if you are not a citizen.
If you are not a citizen, you may be a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPRP), which is commonly called Green Card status. Green Card holders are deemed to be U.S. residents. If you have this status, you can live, work and make a life in the U.S. But you are not a U.S. citizen, and you can expose yourself to serious legal problems if you make the mistake of declaring yourself a U.S. citizen. You may lose your Green Card if you call yourself a U.S. citizen when you are not. You have broad rights in any case, although your permanent residence can be revoked quickly if you are charged, arrested, prosecuted and convicted for certain crimes.
You are also limited in many of the benefits citizens enjoy when you are a Green Card holder.
Here are a few things you cannot do as a Green Card holder:
- You cannot vote in elections
- You are not eligible to hold certain government jobs reserved for citizens.
- You may join the military services but cannot be an officer. Even as an enlisted military service member, you cannot be assigned to any occupations that require security clearance because you are not a citizen.
- Certain immigration benefits would not be available to you, and even if they are available, your relative will wait longer in the “immigration line” because you are not a citizen. Except for very limited circumstances, a U.S. citizen cannot be deported from the United States.
The key is that you are not a citizen, and that makes you an immigrant, which may be ok with you. You may not mind having to return to your country of birth when your circumstances change. But if you have family members who are U.S. citizens, and your relationship may be affected by your potential removal, then you should consult with an immigration attorney to discuss whether you should apply to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen.
If you need additional information about your Green Card status or need a consultation about naturalization to citizenship, call us. (860) 218-2122.