Residency vs Citizenship – The Ultimate Guide

It is important to know the various immigration options and the differences between residency vs citizenship when one chooses to immigrate to a foreign country. Read our guide to learn more about residency and citizenship.

What is a Residence Permit? 

Residency vs Citizenship

A residence permit is defined as a document or card that allows a foreign national to reside in a country for a fixed or indefinite period of time. A resident permit offers you perks such as allowing entry into the nation at any time, investing in real estate, getting health insurance, and enrollment for studies. However, you need to update and renew your residence permit regularly to make sure that your permit does not expire. 

For example, with a residence permit of an EU nation, you can travel to other Schengen countries. However, you can only travel for up to 90 days every 6 months. There are several ways in which you can obtain a residence permit, one of them being through investment programs. 

An individual must be a legal resident of the country to be a permanent resident of a nation. Even when an individual is not a citizen, they have the legal right to reside in a nation for a prolonged period of time. A permanent residence permit aids you in staying in the country for an interminable period of time. To understand the meaning of a permanent resident permit, let us cite an example for you. In the United States of America, a permanent resident is known as a green card holder who can legally reside in the nation even though they are a foreign national. 

The difference between temporary and permanent is based on the period of time one can reside in a country. You can get a permanent residence permit by settling and staying in an EU country for five to seven years. However, you need to renew the permanent residency card every five years to keep it up to date. 

Permanent resident status

The permanent resident permit waives immigration constraints and grants them access to work and live freely in the country. For example, while traveling, permanent residents need to carry their country’s passport and can reenter the United States with a Green Card. A Green Card is an identification card that establishes a permanent resident’s status of being in a foreign country. All permanent residents need a Green Card for identification purposes. If a permanent resident leaves their residence for more than a year, their residence permit is canceled. For UK permanent residents, they can benefit from social security or educational assistance, as well as apply for government aid or education. UK residents also get a Green Card if they have stayed for more than 5 years. 

Takeaways from being a permanent resident: 

  • Every permanent residency holder can enjoy all the perks and benefits as the citizens of the country;
  • A permanent resident card allows you to live, work, make investments, and indulge in business;
  • Opt for free education for your children. 
  • Petitions for children born in another country, be it unmarried or married children, can be raised at immigration services. 

Disadvantages faced by permanent residents: 

  • You cannot qualify for government jobs or state departments; 
  • Permanent residents cannot vote in federal elections. 
  • Only a limited number of immigrant visas are granted to immediate relatives/preference relatives (spouses, parents, unmarried children).
  • One needs a re-entry permit if someone has not been present physically for a long time in the country. 

Who is a citizen?

Residency vs Citizenship

A citizen is a statutory member of a country. Being granted citizenship in a nation can vary from country to country and its respective policies. You can be granted the status of a citizen by living in a country for five to ten years, or when granted the status of refugee by the country’s government. However, the status of citizenship varies, as mentioned above; and therefore you need to look into the country’s policies to understand the rules. 

Citizenship can be defined by the participatory roles entitled to one by the nation’s government. It can be achieved by acquiring all the legal requirements of the nation, state, or government. Being a citizen also grants you rights and privileges offered by the nation. Contrary to the Permanent resident status, the Citizenship status denotes that one can vote for national, state and local elections. For example, UK/U.S Citizens can also file a petition for their family members/preference relatives/immediate relatives which include spouses, parents, and unmarried children for immigration. The UK/U.S Citizens cannot be deported and need no reentry permit from immigration services or immigration authorities even if they are not in their home country. 

Residency vs Citizenship 

Citizenship can be best defined as the situation when you become a citizen of a country and can apply for a passport. Opting for citizenship also grants you the right to study, work and live in the country. Citizenship brings you more benefits to enjoy by broadening the scope to live, work and study in other countries as well. UK/U.S Citizens can avail of various state government grants, and hold certain government jobs, as well as a position at the government agency.

On the other hand, residency status means that your stay is restrictive, as well as that you can apply for travel documents such as an ID card. Along with this, your residing status is limited to a specific geographical demographic. For example, although permanent resident status entitles an individual to stay in the United States indefinitely, if an individual has committed fraud or security violations, the permanent resident permit can be revoked. The permanent residency includes grant residency provided one is not found guilty of committing certain crimes. As mentioned above, we have given you a fair idea of the legal terms that being a resident, permanent resident, and citizen entitles.

Read along to understand the distinctions and takeaways they bring to the table and decide on the best immigration options available.

Citizen vs. permanent resident: the eligibility for a passport: 


Point of Distinction  Citizenship Permanent Resident Permit 
Ability to apply for a Passport  You can apply for a passport.  Permanent residents do not have the access to apply for a passport.
Moving around the nation The benefit of moving freely if you have a passport of your residing nation.  Disadvantages of not being able to move freely. 
Working and studying abroad Unlimited options of choosing from various institutions and organizations.  Permanent residents have more limited prospects of working and studying in the nation. 
Perks Acquiring citizenship allows you to enjoy all the perks of a citizen of the country  Permanent residents enjoy certain perks, but not all. 

Residency vs Citizenship: Right To Vote 

Point of Distinction

Residency  Citizenship
Voting Rights The right to vote is not accessible by residency permit.  Citizens have voting rights. 

However, after you have resided in a nation for a prolonged period of time, you can apply for citizenship. The duration requirement of applying for citizenship will differ from country to country, depending on its own policies and rules.

The distinction between residency and citizenship: residency requirements

A Permanent Residency permit can be abjured if an individual is out of a nation for a prolonged period of time. Citizenship entitles an individual for a lifetime without any such condition. 

For example, “indefinite leave to remain” status in the UK can be revoked if you do not stay for more than two years in the nation. 

What is the difference between a citizen and a resident?

Citizen  Resident 
The right to vote for local and state elections; and represent the public office.  Residents are not eligible for voting. 
Citizenship cannot be revoked. UK or U.S Citizens cannot be deported. Resident permits can be revoked. U.S or UK Residents can be deported. 
There is no requirement for residency.  Need to stay in the nation for a specified period of time. 
Citizenship is for life.  The Resident Permit needs to be renewed. 
The citizenship passes to your family members or children.  The resident permit can be passed to your children depending upon the situation and eligibility. 
A citizen can enjoy the perks entitled to them by the government.  A resident holder gets to enjoy specified rights such as working, studying and investing.
You can ask for assistance while traveling abroad and contact the embassy, consulate, or other diplomatic organizations. You cannot ask for assistance. 
No biometric information is required.  Biometric information is required. 
Citizens can benefit from health facilities provided by the state.  Permanent residents should have their own health insurance covered. 
Citizenship is not conditional.  Residency permits are conditional. 
You will be provided with your passport.  No passports are issued for permanent residents. 
Can travel visa-free to nations in accordance with the travel agreement between the country and nation.  Need a travel document or ID to travel. 

Countries that offer Residency by Investment

Golden Visa Investments

Foreign nationals who are looking for a residency in some other country apart from their own can opt for residency through investment programs. Some of the programs mentioned below are not directly associated with citizenship, but you can apply for citizenship once you have met the required criteria over a certain timeframe. 

  • Portugal

The Portugal Golden Visa is renowned around the globe due to its wide array of investment options and reasonable investments that suits investors. With the Portugal Golden Visa, you are entitled to all the benefits of residence in the EU. 

  • Greece

The Greece Golden Visa is popular among investors for innumerable reasons; starting from the mesmerizing beaches and a tranquil coastline, the region offers you flexible investment options. 

  • Ireland

Ireland Golden Visa investment plans bring you various perks apart from the scenic beauty of the region. If you make a prosperous investment in Ireland, you can apply to become an Irish resident.

  • Malta

Malta’s permanent residence program is popular for its opportunities and obtaining residence in Malta. If you can make qualifying investments through a combination of property, non-refundable charitable donations, and government contributions, you can get more in return. 

  • Spain

The Spain Residency program is one of the most popular programs in Europe. With excellent investment opportunities, the residency program in Spain attracts many investors.

Countries that offer Citizenship by Investment 

Residency and Citizenship

  • Malta: 

Malta Exceptional Investor Neutralization is a citizenship by investment option for foreign nationals to obtain EU citizenship. MEIN can also aid in acquiring a European passport within one year or in three years. 

  • Antigua and Barbuda:

The Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by investment program brings you an opportunity to obtain dual citizenship. 

  • St Kitts and Nevis: 

St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by investment program give investors an opportunity to obtain dual citizenship. 

  • Grenada

Enjoy a picturesque lifestyle and scenic views in Grenada, where you can travel visa-free to over 130 countries. 

The only Caribbean country offering investors to settle in the USA through the US E2 non-immigrant visa. To know more about the Caribbean citizenship investment program, you can read our comparison guide for the same. 

  • St Lucia 

The St Lucia investment program, CBI, offers citizenship in exchange for economic contributions made to the country. 

  • Vanuatu 

With the Vanuatu citizenship program, you can enjoy visa-free travel to 140 destinations without any tax. 

  • Dominica

Dominican citizenship can be easily acquired by contributing to the country’s economic growth. 

Frequently Asked Questions on Residency vs Citizenship

What is the difference between citizen and resident?

The basic distinction between being a citizen and a resident is: 

If you are a citizen, you can enjoy the benefits of citizenship for life, which can be passed down to your children. If you are a resident, you are granted to stay in the nation for a certain length of time. A resident can study, work and live in the United States or the United Kingdom. Whereas, UK/U.S citizens can vote. 

How expensive is real estate in Portugal?

The Portugal Golden Visa investment entails a low-cost residency investment of €350k. 

What is the difference between a citizen and a permanent resident?

The meaning of permanent residence can vary from nation to nation. However, lawful permanent resident status is known as people who are green cardholders in the United States. Whereas, a lawful resident of the UK is someone who is eligible for permanent residence based on the state laws. 

Citizenship is the highest immigration status that an individual can get. A UK Citizen will receive their British passport, similarly, a U.S Citizen will receive their own US Passport issued by the US State Department.

Does permanent residency mean citizenship?

No. Permanent residency does not mean citizenship. A permanent resident is a term for a foreign national who is granted to stay, work and study in a foreign nation or country.

What comes first, residency or citizenship?

For foreign nationals, the first step is a residency permit. If you stay for a prolonged period of time, abiding by the terms and rules of the foreign nation, you can apply for citizenship after maintaining the guidelines. If you receive permanent residence and follow the rules stated by that country’s laws, you can apply for citizenship status after residing for a prolonged period of time (this varies from nation to nation).

What is a Non-Resident Citizen?

The Non-Resident Citizen term is used when an individual who has a citizenship of a nation chooses to stay outside their nation. 

What does Permanent Resident Citizenship mean?

The PR Citizenship entitled to an individual offers them the grant or permission to study, work and live in the United States/United Kingdom permanently. However, these Permanent Residents remain citizens of their own nation and cannot vote for federal and local elections of the nation they are residing in.

Difference between Resident Citizen and Non-Resident Citizen

A resident citizen is an individual who has their citizenship and chooses to stay in their original nation, while a non-resident is a person who chooses to reside in another nation.