What is the Best Definition of a Resident Alien?

Learn about the definition of a resident alien, the benefits and challenges of this status, and a case study of Maria’s journey to becoming a Permanent Resident Alien in the United States.

Understanding Resident Alien Status

A resident alien is a person who lives in a country but is not a citizen of that country. This status can be a bit confusing, as it varies based on the country in question. In the United States, for example, a resident alien is an individual who is not a citizen, but is permitted to live and work in the country legally.

Types of Resident Aliens

There are two main types of resident aliens in the United States: Permanent Resident Aliens (Green Card holders) and Conditional Resident Aliens. Permanent Resident Aliens are individuals who have been granted the right to live permanently in the U.S. They can work, own property, and attend school. Conditional Resident Aliens, on the other hand, are individuals who have been granted conditional residency through marriage or investment, with the condition that they must fulfill certain requirements to maintain their status.

Benefits of Resident Alien Status

One of the key benefits of being a resident alien is the ability to live and work legally in the country. This status also allows individuals to access certain benefits and protections, such as the ability to travel in and out of the country freely, apply for federal financial aid, and receive social security benefits.

Challenges of Resident Alien Status

Despite the benefits, there are also challenges that come with being a resident alien. For example, resident aliens are not eligible to vote in federal elections, and they may face restrictions when it comes to certain jobs and benefits. Additionally, resident aliens are required to pay taxes on their worldwide income, just like U.S. citizens.

Case Study: Maria’s Journey to Becoming a Resident Alien

Maria moved to the U.S. from Mexico with her family when she was 10 years old. She went to school, graduated from college, and found a job. After many years of hard work and dedication, Maria was able to obtain her Green Card and become a Permanent Resident Alien. Now, Maria can live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation.


Being a resident alien is a status that comes with both benefits and challenges. It allows individuals to live and work legally in a country, but it also comes with restrictions and responsibilities. Understanding what it means to be a resident alien is important for those who hold this status, as well as for those who interact with resident aliens on a daily basis.

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