What is the difference between being a permanent resident and a citizen?
There are quite a few distinctions between being permanent residents or citizens, mainly in your legal status in the eyes of a host nation.
A citizen is a person who holds the nationality and passport of a country, for example, a U.S. citizen who holds a U.S. passport is bound to the USA through allegiance, governance, and taxation. Citizens have all the rights a country can give, from voting, running for office, working, opening a business, social security, access to healthcare, free public education, and more depending on the country. Citizens cannot be deported, and U.S. history and government statutes show that U.S. citizens have a multitude of rights not even the government can deny.
On the other hand, someone holding a permanent resident status is a foreigner who is legally allowed to reside within a country indefinitely. Green card holders, for example, are lawful permanent residents who are allowed to live in the United States as long as they wish under certain circumstances such as maintaining the good moral character and meeting the physical residency requirement to renew your permanent residency card.
Permanent residents, generally speaking, usually have the same rights as citizens with the exception of political rights such as voting, running for office, joining particular political parties, and more of the same, of course, is a general rule and depends on the host country.
If you hold a U.S. green card, for example, you have the right to live in the U.S. indefinitely and the right to work in the U.S., but you do not have the right to vote in U.S. elections, nor can you run for office in the U.S. government. Only U.S. citizens can vote and run for office, if you would like to do so you need to apply for U.S. citizenship to gain the entire benefits of U.S. citizenship.
Although not yet U.S. citizens, green card holders, although they do not hold a U.S. passport, are granted the right to reenter the United States as they please without a visa as long as they maintain a good moral character and are not deported. This is just one of the reasons many people aim to obtain a green card.
While we have focused on the U.S. immigration law, this premise is generally similar in many countries such as the UK, Germany, Canada, Australia, and many more. Some countries do not have a lawful permanent resident status such as KSA or Qatar, in which case people either reside temporarily or are citizens, nothing in between.