Green Card vs. U.S. Visa: What Are the Key Differences?

Green Card vs. U.S. Visa What Are the Key Differences

When choosing to enter the United States and you aren’t a citizen of the country, you will be required to have certain paperwork to enter. This paperwork will change depending on your purpose in the country and how long you plan to remain. Ensuring you follow all legal rules for any country you enter is an absolute must, and the United States is no exception. To that end, the most commonly seen documents held by non-U.S. citizens are green cards or visas. 

What is a U.S. Visa?

A United States Visa is a piece of documentation that shows a person is eligible to enter the United States for the reason they have announced. This document is put inside of a traveler’s passport and has an expiration date. With a Visa in hand, a traveler to the United States is allowed to travel to any port of entry, such as an airport or land border crossing, to requesting entry. 

Common Types of Visas

Generally, there are two categories of United States Visas that a person can consider: nonimmigrant and immigrant visas. The former is a Visa that is designed for travelers who are only coming to the United States temporarily, whereas the latter is for those who are traveling to live in the United States permanently. With this said, three of the most popular types of Visas include:

  • Visitor B1 or B2 Visa: For recreational or business purposes, B Visas are issued to travelers and most often have short-term expiration dates. 
  • Student Visa: Those who are admitted to the United States on a study program will be issued a student Visa that allows them to remain in the country for 1-2 years on average, or the length of the program.
  • Exchange Visitor Visa: For those who are taking part in an exchange student or visitor program, an exchange visitor Visa will be issued. These are typically shorter term than a student Visa. 

What is a Green Card?

A green card, on the other hand, is a permanent resident card that allows a person to live and work in the time limit with no expiration date. They are not a citizen of the country, but they aren’t considered to be an immigrant either. In most cases, a green card will only expire if a person has violated the rules and restrictions of the green card. While there isn’t an expiration date for the permanent residency, you do have to renew your green card after ten years.

Common Types of Green Cards

While all green cards provide the same benefits, there are a few different categories that allow a person to apply for a green card, including: 

  • Green card via family;
  • Employment;
  • Special Immigrant;
  • Refugee;
  • Victim of Crime;
  • Victim of Abuse and;
  • Registry

What Does a Green Card Allow that a Standard Visa Does Not?

All in all, a green card provides far more benefits that a United States Visa. With a green card, a person has all the rights of a U.S. citizen short of voting. Green card holders can also freely travel back and forth to and from the United States as they please. Additionally, green card holders are given the option to become a United States citizen after holding their green card for five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen).

A green card also allows a person to petition to bring certain family members to the United States, including a spouse, unmarried children under 21, or an unmarried son or daughter of any age. While the petition may not be approved, having the option is a major benefit of green cards. 

However, to even get approved for a green card you need to have someone, typically a citizen, petition for you and the USCIS will set up an interview to discuss whether you are eligible after you file an application. 

Visit the United States today

When planning a trip to the United States, it’s important to have all documentation taken care of before you set off on your journey. Remember that even if you are vacationing in the United States for a brief amount of time, unless from Canada or Bermuda in most cases, a Visitor’s Visa will be required to enter. For those who have got tired of renewing their green card and have been in the country for over five years, consider taking steps to apply for United States citizenship. 

Green Card vs. U.S. Visa: What Are the Key Differences?

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