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Why Becoming a US Citizen Trumps Having a Green Card: Exploring the Advantages

August 03, 2023

For immigrants residing in the United States, the decision to become a US citizen carries numerous advantages over merely having a green card. US citizenship grants an array of privileges and benefits that legal permanent residents do not possess. Additionally, US citizens and legal permanent residents are subject to different repercussions in case of criminal law violations. Moreover, the treatment under US tax laws varies significantly for US citizens and legal permanent residents, including implications for their heirs. This blog will delve into these three aspects to highlight the benefits of US citizenship and why it is crucial to secure the services of an immigration law firm, such as Meimaris Law, to navigate this complex process.

Section 1: Privileges of US Citizens vs. Legal Permanent Residents

  1. Voting Rights: US citizens have the right to vote in federal elections, enabling them to actively participate in shaping the country’s political landscape and have a say in the decisions that affect their lives.
  2. Travel Flexibility: While green card holders can travel outside the US, they are subject to certain limitations. US citizens can travel abroad without time restrictions and can receive consular assistance in case of emergencies.
  3. Unrestricted Residency: Green card holders may face deportation if they commit certain crimes or spend prolonged periods outside the US. US citizens have permanent residency and cannot be deported.
  4. Public Office and Government Jobs: US citizens are eligible to run for public office and have access to federal government job opportunities, which are generally not available to legal permanent residents.
  5. Petitioning Family Members: US citizens have broader immigration benefits, including the ability to sponsor a wider range of family members for immigration.

Section 2: Criminal Law Violations and Repercussions

  1. Criminal Law Violations by US Citizens: US citizens charged with criminal offenses are subject to the full extent of the US legal system. They may face trial, imprisonment, fines, and other penalties if found guilty.
  2. Criminal Law Violations by Legal Permanent Residents: In addition to the above, green card holders convicted of certain crimes may face deportation or removal proceedings, which can lead to the loss of their permanent resident status.

Section 3: US Tax Laws for US Citizens vs. Legal Permanent Residents and Their Heirs

  1. US Tax Laws for US Citizens: US citizens are taxed on their worldwide income, regardless of where they reside. They must file annual tax returns with the IRS, reporting all income sources, even those earned abroad.
  • US Tax Laws for Legal Permanent Residents: Like US citizens, green card holders are also required to report their worldwide income to the IRS. However, specific tax treaties may impact their tax liability.
  1. Treatment of Heirs: US citizens can pass on their citizenship to their heirs, allowing them to inherit the benefits and privileges of US citizenship. 
  2. Legal permanent residents do not have the same ability to pass on their status.
  3. US Tax Laws – Marital Deduction: US citizens enjoy specific benefits under the US tax laws when it comes to estate planning and the claiming of the marital deduction by the surviving spouse following the death of the US citizen. The treatment of the marital deduction for the surviving spouse following the death of a legal permanent resident is different from that of a US citizen.
  • Marital Deduction: When a US citizen spouse passes away, the surviving spouse, if also a US citizen, is entitled to claim an unlimited marital deduction. This deduction allows the entire value of the deceased spouse’s estate to pass to the surviving spouse without incurring any federal estate taxes. It provides a significant advantage in preserving family wealth and assets, as it defers the payment of estate taxes until the passing of the surviving spouse.
    • Marital Deduction Limitations: Unlike US citizens, legal permanent residents are subject to limitations when claiming the marital deduction. The marital deduction for a surviving spouse who is not a US citizen is capped at a specific amount set by the US tax laws, which may change each year. This limitation can potentially lead to a higher estate tax liability for the surviving spouse, depending on the size of the estate.
  1. US Tax Laws – Portability: 
  • Portability of Unused Exemption: Additionally, US citizens can take advantage of portability, which allows the surviving spouse to carry forward any unused portion of the deceased spouse’s estate and gift tax exemption. This provision allows the surviving spouse to increase their own estate and gift tax exemption, providing them with greater flexibility in their estate planning.
  1. No Portability: Legal permanent residents do not have the option of portability, meaning the surviving spouse cannot carry forward any unused portion of the deceased spouse’s estate and gift tax exemption. This lack of portability can have significant implications for the estate planning of the surviving spouse, potentially resulting in higher estate taxes.


Becoming a US citizen presents numerous advantages over holding a green card, including voting rights, unrestricted residency, travel flexibility, the ability to petition a broader range of family members for immigration and, from a US tax law perspective, the ability to claim an unlimited marital deduction and portability for estate tax purposes.  Furthermore, US citizens and green card holders are subject to different repercussions for criminal law violations. 

If you are considering the path to US citizenship, it is essential to have the guidance and expertise of an immigration law firm like Meimaris Law. Our experienced team can help you navigate the complexities of the naturalization process and ensure that you understand the rights and privileges that US citizenship bestows upon you. Take the first step towards a brighter future for you and your family by visiting www.meimarislaw.com to learn more about our services and how we can assist you throughout your immigration journey.

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