What Is the Difference Between a Green Card and a Visa?

What is the difference between a green card and a visa? They are both governments issued documents for immigrants.

Green cards and visas grant different types of privileges and rights to the holder. Keep reading to learn what is the difference between a green card vs. visa and which document is right for you.

What Is the Difference Between a Green Card and a Visa?

The main difference between a visa vs. green card is that a green card allows you to remain in the United States and work indefinitely. A visa is only a temporary pass that allows you to enter the United States and stay for a short period.

Green cards do not come with expiration dates. You can stay and work in the United States as long as you like with a green card. Depending on the type of visa you may also be allowed to work in the United States. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of visas.


What is a visa? As we said above a visa grants the recipient entry into the United States. Foreign citizens must apply for and obtain a visa before traveling to the U.S.

Visas are insured at a U.S. consulate or embassies around the world. This type of document allows individuals to travel to the U.S. and request permission to enter. However, a visa does always guarantee that you will be given entry.

If your visa is about to expire you must renew it while you are inside the United States or leave the United States before it expires.

Do you have a visa and want to apply for a green card? An immigration attorney may be able to help. Hire an immigration attorney to avoid the many pitfalls that may disqualify you from permanent residency when dealing with the immigration system in the United States.

Non-Immigrant Visa

A non-immigrant visa is for people who are going to be residing in the United States for a brief period. These visas are typically given to tourists, temporary workers, and students.

If you are in the United States as a tourist or student you are not allowed to work.

However, temporary workers do have permission to work while on a non-immigrant visa. To qualify for work on a non-immigrant visa you have to have a qualifying job such as religious workers, college-educated professionals, or unskilled laborers.

Some non-immigrant visas allow you to apply for a green card while you are on your temporary visa but most mom-immigrant visas do not. Sometimes this rule is called the rule of dual intent.

Immigrant Visa

An immigrant visa allows an individual to enter the United States and it gives them permission to apply for a green card to gain permanent residency. Once you have an immigrant visa in your name you are then allowed to go ahead and apply and interview for green card.

It is important to remember that immigrant visas are very difficult to get compared to non-immigrant visas. Immigrant visas are given out on a petition basis. Every immigrant visa must be petitioned for by a current citizen of the United States.

Immigrant visas are also given to refugees, asylum immigrants, and diversity visa lottery winners.

Green Card

What is a green card? A green card gives the individual permanent residency status in the United States. Permanent residences are allowed to live and work in the United States indefinitely.

If you have a green card do you need a visa to work? The answer is simple: no. If you have a green card you will be eligible to work without a visa in the United States.

To maintain permanent residency the green card holder must not commit any crimes that could be seen as a crime that would make you removable. If you commit a crime as a green card holder you abandon your green card status.

If you forget to renew your green card this could also be grounds for removing your green card status. Make sure you know when your green card expires and stay on top of getting it renewed on time.

Green cards are easy to get confused with visa because they are also immigration documents. There are several different ways you could get a green card.

You may qualify for an employment-based green card. There are different types of employment-based applications where workers with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities can use their talents and skills to work in the United States.

The most popular way to get a green card is through a family member. Family-based green cards are given to immigrants who are married or who are close relatives of U.S citizens or permanent residents.

Diversity Visa Lottery applicants who are successful are also granted green cards. Refugees and asylum seekers may also apply for a green card after they complete a full year of living in the United States.

Other Considerations

The biggest benefit of a green card is being able to stay indefinitely, but green cardholders can also apply for citizenship after living in the United States after some time.

A green card should not be used as a frequent traveler pass. With a green card, you will only be granted travel outside of the United States on a limited basis. So do not apply for a green card if you are looking for a solution to filing multiple visa applications.

Bit sometimes people are not looking to stay in the United States for a long time. In those cases, a non-immigrant visa will work for them.

Choose the Right Immigration Document

Sometimes it is difficult to tell what is the difference between a green card and a visa. It all depends on how long you want to stay in the United States. Are you maintaining a residency outside of the U.S and just need to pop in for a quick visit?

Are you a student or working for a short time? All of these questions will help you decide which immigration document you will need.

If you enjoyed reading this article check out our other travel articles now.


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