Immigration. Travel. Living.

The difference between a visa and a green card in the U.S

For immigrants, the government issues both green cards and U.S. visas. However, they provide their possessor with a variety of rights and benefits. A visa is merely a temporary permit that enables its bearer to enter and stay in the United States for a certain amount of time and for a particular purpose. A green card is a document that enables its possessor to live and work permanently in the United States while also serving as verification of their immigrant status.

Agreen card and Visa placed side by side


A visa is necessary for entry, regardless of whether you’re planning to immigrate to the United States or are just traveling there for a visit. Before visiting there, visa applications must be submitted to and processed by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. There are two types of visas, therefore you need to know which one to apply for.

Visas for non-immigrants

With this kind of visa, you can go to the US for a predetermined purpose. It could be for a job, school, medical treatment, or business. Whatever the cause, they are only temporary and provide you with a limited time to visit the US. Your departure date is made very explicit, and if you don’t go by that day, it will be strictly enforced.  You cannot stay in the United States permanently with this sort of visa.

Visas for immigrants

Since they are carefully examined before being accepted, they are more difficult to acquire approval for. With the help of this visa, you can visit the US to settle down as a permanent resident. It is a step in the procedure to get a green card. As a result, compared to a non-immigrant visa, the visa approval procedure is substantially more involved. A road to citizenship is not provided by just receiving an immigrant visa, the remaining steps must be followed to get a green card.

Green card

This is a physical document that serves as evidence that you are a legitimate permanent resident of the U.S. With this card, you have the flexibility to live, work, and travel anywhere you choose in the United States. You must already possess an immigrant visa and apply to USCIS to be granted the card. After around three to five years of holding the card, you may start working for citizenship. Green cards have even more categories than visas, which have two distinct types. The following categories might be accessible to you:


Available to foreign people with close relations who are American citizens or have green cards. All relatives of American citizens or holders of green cards, including siblings, parents, kids, and even widows and widowers, are eligible to apply.


Due to their employment, some of the working groups that the U.S. is looking for may apply for this card. Your U.S.-based employer must submit a petition on your behalf.

Humanitarians with green cards

Those who are refugees, asylum seekers, or victims of human trafficking are qualified to apply for green cards.

Winner of the green card lottery

Up to 50,000 candidates at random are chosen by the US government each year to get this card. The United States gives preference consideration to applicants from nations with a low rate of immigration. The diversity visa lottery is the name given to this procedure.

Differences between green cards and visas

The primary distinction between a visa and a green card is that the latter signifies residence while the former only facilitates travel inside the United States. Although immigrant visas may serve as a gateway to green cards, they never serve as proof of residence in and of themselves. Of course, there are other factors distinguishing these two important immigration issues in addition to this basic distinction. Other differences to take into account are:

Dates of expiration

By proxy, green card does not have expiry dates. Cards themselves are only valid for 10 years, but residence is perpetual, thus when the first card expires, all that is needed to do is apply for a new one using form i-90. In actuality, only criminal convictions or acceptance into the Eb-5 visa category may result in the card’s expiry date. In contrast, immigrant visas are only good for six months after the date of the interview, while non-immigrant visas are only good for a few years.

Being able to travel

The main goal of a visa is to make it easier to travel inside the US. Many people make the error of believing that this advantage also comes with green cards, but that is untrue. A person with a green card must remain in the US continuously to maintain their residence.


People with green card can work in the US, while visa often do not unless the application is specifically for employment or is sponsored by an employer. As a result, the card offers more security in the US, while visas are temporary or a pathway to future green card applications.

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