What’s The Difference Between Green Card And Visa


Many people confuse green card with visa. Most people think that both green cards and visas are the same things. If you are one of them then you must know that there is a difference between a green card and a visa.  In this article, we will discuss both these words in detail so that all your misconceptions are cleared regarding these words. 

What is a Visa?

A visa is a piece of document that is provided to you by the U.S state department through one of its consulates or embassies around the world. People can use a visa to present themselves at the U.S border or port of entry to seek entry in the U.S premises. After displaying your visa at the point of entry, the customs officer will review your application, and then they will decide if you should be allowed to enter in the U.S or not. However, if you arrive at the U.S border with a valid visa then it is a good indication that you will be permitted to enter. 

Visa appears as a stamp on your passport. If you are going to the U.S consulate or Embassy to get a visa, it means that you are going there to get your passport stamped or get an equivalent document that permits you to enter legally in the USA. 

There are two types of Visas:

  1. Immigrant Visa
  2. Non-Immigrant Visa

If a person is having an immigrant visa then he immediately becomes a permanent resident of the USA upon entry. Such a person can stay in the U.S for as long as he wants (As long as he does something to get deported)  and he will get his green card very soon. 

A non-immigrant visa is just a temporary visa. If a person is having a non-immigrant visa then he can enter the U.S, but he can only stay there for a specified time that is mentioned on his visa. Once his visa expires, he has to leave the U.S. This visa is usually acquired by businessmen, tourists, students, and other temporary purposes. 

What is a Green Card?

Green card a plastic card that a person receives when he becomes a lawful resident of the USA. It is also known as a permanent resident or permanent residency card. You receive a green card by mail once you enter the USA on an immigrant visa. There is another case where the person applying for a green card is already living in the USA. In that case, there are provided their green card as soon as they get approval from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The word “Green cardholder” is usually used for people that are lawful permanent residents as well as lawful conditional residents. Although their status expires in two years. 

Green Card vs Visa (Confusion and Overlap)

Usually, you can obtain temporary visas or non-immigrant visas like B-2 tourist visa, F-1 Student visa, or H-1B temporary specialty worker visa from a U.S embassy or U.S consulate. But in some cases, someone who is already present in the USA can apply for “Change of Status” at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). One thing that you must keep in mind is if you receive that approval in the USA then it doesn’t mean that you are provided with an actual visa.

A U.S visa is an entry document that is only issued by DOS present outside of the U.S. So, suppose a person got the change of status inside the U.S and for some reason, he leaves the U.S. Then he will have to make a stop at a U.S consulate or embassy to get an actual visa by using which he can re-enter the U.S. 

On the other hand, immigrant visas like family-based visas and employment-based visas are also obtained at U.S embassies and consulates around the world. Immigrant visas also have a facility where a person living in the U.S can get his status adjusted without leaving the USA. You may have a concept in your mind that people who are provided with a green card are not provided with a visa but they do have a visa number that most people are not aware of. 

Green Cards Cannot Be Used For Easy Entry And Exit Like Visas

Don’t expect green to be your regular travel pass. There is also a misconception regarding the green card that a person having a green card can use it to travel in and out of the U.S for unlimited times. This confusion is mostly among the overseas family members that frequently visit the U.S and sometimes apply for a green card. If you are planning to set up your house in another country then the U.S government will figure this out eventually and they will cancel your green card. They consider it as an abandoning of the U.S residence and you might need to start over all the procedure to obtain the permanent residency again. 

How Do You Apply for a Green Card?

If you want to apply for a green card as a non-resident then you have basically 3 options to do that.

  1. Green Card Through Family
  2. Green Card Through Work/Job
  3. Green Card Through Green Card Visa Lottery.

The requirements for each of the green cards mentioned above are different from each other but all these green cards are applied through the immigration authorities at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To apply for a green card, you must fulfill some requirements that are mentioned below. 

  • You must be eligible for one of the immigrant categories established in INA (immigration national act). 
  • You must have a petition filed and approved for you.
  • You must have an immigrant visa available immediately.
  • You Must Be Admissible to the USA. 

The green card lottery is the best and the easiest option to apply for a green card. All you need is good luck to qualify for the green card lottery and the rest of the procedure is very simple and easy. On the other hand, if you already have close family members living in the U.S and they are already green card of nationality holders then they can file a petition on your behalf so that you can qualify for a family based green card. The same goes for the job and work-based green cards where your employee files a petition on your  behalf and if it is approved then you can get a job based green card. 


How Do You Apply for a Visa?

The visa applications are completed at one of the U.S consulates or embassies. There are different types of visas and the requirements of each visa significantly differ from others. So you have to be sure about the type of visa you are applying for. 

Non-immigrant Application

For non-immigrant applications, you need to fill an online form DS-160. You also need to pay a fee along with it which depends upon your tier. You are called for a visa interview where you have to show all your supporting documents. Then you have to wait for your visa to be approved and the waiting period could be somewhere between days to months. 

Immigrant Visa Application

Immigrant visa applications are also submitted at U.S consulates or embassies. It also follows the same steps however the main difference here is that here you need to fill the form DS-260. Another difference here is that you do not submit this form until you are invited for an interview. You need to file petitions here depending upon which type of permanent residency you are applying for. If your petition is approved then you can start the rest of the procedure.

Bottom Line:

These are some of the misconceptions and differences related to a green card and a visa. In this article, we thoroughly discussed a most searched query on the Internet that is “Green Card Vs Visa”. We discussed some of the similarities and some differences. Now you will have an idea that what is the basic difference between these two ter