What’s the Difference Between a Visa and a Green Card?
By Tedia Gamino
If you’ve ever wanted to move or travel to the U.S., the odds are that you might be wondering whether you need a visa, or a green card. These two terms overlap, so it’s important to know the differences between the two.
A visa is required to gain entry into the U.S., but having one isn’t necessarily a gateway to getting a green card.
Let’s explore each in more detail.
What Is a Visa?
If you’re planning to immigrate or travel to the U.S., you must have a visa. Usually, you apply for a visa at a Consulate or U.S. Embassy before traveling.
Visas come in two types:
- Non-immigrant visas
- Immigrant visas
#1. Non-immigrant Visa
If you’re traveling to the U.S. for a specific purpose, like a medical treatment, or for education, work, or business, you’ll need to apply for a non-immigrant visa. This visa allows you a limited stay in the country.
#2. Immigrant Visa
If you plan to move to the United States to live permanently, you’ll need a U.S. immigrant visa. Perhaps the simplest way to get an immigrant visa is through sponsorship by an immediate relative or family member in the U.S. This could be a spouse who is a U.S. citizen, your fiancée who is a U.S. citizen, certain family members of U.S. citizens, and certain family members of lawful permanent residents (LPR).
What Is a Green Card?
If you’ve received a green card you’ve been granted the ability to permanently live and work in the U.S. Having a visa can help you qualify for a green card. However, having a visa isn’t a guarantee that your green card application will be approved. After receiving your green card, and having lived in the U.S. for 3 to 5 years, you can apply for U.S. citizenship.
Although a green card affords you permanent residence in the U.S., the law requires you to renew your card every 10 years. Additionally, your residency privilege can be revoked if you engage in unlawful activities in the country.
What Makes a Visa Different from a Green Card?
- Time of issuance
- Duration of stay
#1. Time of Issuance
One of the most significant differences between a visa and a green card is that you obtain a visa before travelling to the U.S., whereas a green card is issued after you arrive in the country.
#2. Duration of Stay
A visa allows you to stay in the U.S. temporarily, while a green card gives you permanent residence in the country.
A green card affords you the ability to apply for U.S. citizenship, but you cannot do so by simply having a visa.
Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Lawyer About a Revoked Green Card?
If your green card has been revoked, call our office at 414-383-6700 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced immigration lawyers who can provide the guidance you need.
By Attorney Tedia Gamino