Important Difference Between Green Card Holders and U.S. Citizens

In most instances, reality television portrays the furthest thing from what reality for the cast members is actually like, and very seldom gives true insight into how the real world actually works. Unfortunately, Real Housewives of New Jersey star Joe Guidice’s recent legal battles with the IRS, and now with immigration illustrates an accurate lesson on the difference in lawful permanent residence and being a U.S. citizen.

For most lawful permanent residents, also known as green card holders, the hard part is done. The phrase lawful permanent resident is very straightforward in that your permission to stay in the United States is no longer temporary, in theory. Another perk is that green card holders can also travel outside the United States with little fear of not being allowed to return, subject to some exceptions.

HOWEVER, lawful permanent residents are not impervious to deportation. If a green card holder breaks certain immigration laws they can be deported. One of the most common reasons for which green card holders are deported is being convicted of certain crimes, specifically crimes involving moral turpitude (or “CIMT”s).  If convicted of a CIMT, a green card holder may be subject to deportation. Some of these crimes, such as driving under the influence, can constitute a CIMT depending on whether or not the conviction is a misdemeanor, felony, or aggravated felony.

Joe Giudice was convicted and sent to jail for bankruptcy fraud- a CIMT, and is now facing removal. Although Joe, who is now 46 years old, emigrated from Italy to the United States as a child, has held a lawful permanent resident card for almost his entire life and has raised his family in the U.S., ICE has still initiated removal proceedings against him. If ICE is successful, Giudice could be deported prior to his March 2019 anticipated release date from prison.

If you have been a lawful permanent resident in the United States for more than 5 years, or if you obtained lawful permanent residency through marriage and have had it for at least three years, you might qualify for naturalization. Naturalization is the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. Whether or not you become a citizen through naturalization or by birth, you cannot be deported (with the exception of becoming denaturalized).

Additional perks of citizenship that are not afforded to lawful Permanent Residents are 1) the right to vote; 2) receiving federal benefits; 3) obtain financial aid; and 4) the power to give derivative citizenship to their children. If you believe that you or someone you know is eligible for naturalization and would like to learn more, contact Cunningham Lopez LLP for information or assistance.