If you are interested in traveling to America on a temporary or permanent basis, then it is important to understand the difference between a green card and a visa. Both allow for the opportunity to live and stay in the United States. However, they are different as it pertains to how long you can remain in the country and what you are allowed to do while you are here (i.e., employment). This review discusses the differences between a green card and a visa.

What Is A Green Card?

A green card, also called a permanent resident card, allows you to live in the country permanently. Immigrants who possess a green card may also obtain a work permit and work full-time in the United States. As long as the green card holder does not violate any conditions (i.e., criminal felony), then they can remain in the United States for as long as they desire with no set expiration date. Notably, this is not the case with a visa (see below), which does expire. There are different types of green cards. A green card may be awarded for the following reasons:

  • Employment-based green card
  • Family-based green card
  • Special immigrant green card
  • Refugee or asylum green cards
  • Green cards awarded to abuse or trafficking victims

There are other ways of obtaining a green card as well. The best way to determine if you are eligible for a green card or to find out the steps you must take to obtain one, consult with an immigration attorney.

What Is A Visa?

A visa is a status given to non-immigrants that are entering the United States on a temporary basis. It is much easier to obtain a visa than it is to obtain a green card. Those who receive a visa are allowed to stay until the expiration date of their visa status. In most cases (excluding employment visas), visa holders are not allowed to work while they are in the United States. There are many different types of visas, including:

  • Worker visas
  • Student visas
  • Visitor visas

There are numerous types of visas that may be applicable to you. You can determine which visas you are qualified for and which type is the most appropriate by discussing your travel goals with an experienced immigration attorney.

Main Difference Between Green Cards and Visas

The primary difference between green cards and visas is the amount of time the foreign national is allowed to live in the United States. A visa is temporary and has a set duration of time the individual can remain in the United States. A green card does not expire and allows for permanent residency. Green cards also include a path to citizenship as well.

A Visa is Temporary for a Set Duration of Time

The duration of a visa depends on the type of visa. For example, a student visa typically allows the student to remain in the United States while they are in school, but the student must return home when they are not in school (i.e., after graduation). Another difference between green cards and visas is that most visas do not allow the person to work during their time in the United States, especially if they are here for tourism purposes, visiting family or are studying.

A Green Card Allows Permanent Residency

A green card allows you to live in the United States permanently as long as there are no violations to the green card requirements. Green card recipients may also work while in the United States. They can also pursue a path toward citizenship, which is a step beyond permanent resident status.

Which Is The Right Option For Me?

There are many factors that go into a decision when choosing between a green card and a visa. In general, a visa is intended for foreign nationals that are not seeking permanent residence in the United States, Instead, it is for non-immigrants that only intend to stay in the United States for a temporary period of time. In some instances, a visa is a necessary step toward a green card, such as with a fiancé visa. A green card is for immigrants that are seeking to remain in the United States permanently.

The path for each is unique and often requires professional assistance. This is important to ensure all rules are followed throughout the process and to increase your likelihood of receiving the type of visa or green card that is right for you. Working with an immigration attorney can simplify the process and help you understand the path that is in your best interest.

Reach Out to an Experienced Immigration Attorney

Are you interested in learning more about the green card and/or visa process? If so, reach out to our Fairfax immigration attorneys today to speak with one of our experienced and professional immigration attorneys. We can help you as you pursue ways to travel to the United States.

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Beeraj Patel, Esq.

Partner at KPPB Law
Beeraj Patel's philosophy is simple - make it easy for talented and ambitious individuals to have access to immigration materials so that they can make the choice which is right for them.
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