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U.S Green Card vs Visa: Top 4 Differences and Similarities

If you are considering visiting or relocating to the United States, you might be asking what the difference is between a US Green Card vs Visa.

One of the most popular tourist and permanent immigration destinations is the United States. Green card holders normally enter the nation on a visa, although not all visa holders have or will acquire a green card.

The United States is one of the most popular tourism and permanent immigration destinations. The US issues over 6 million short-term visas every year compared to Green Cards— over 1 million are issued.

Whether you are planning to visit the US short-term or long-term, it’s important to understand the difference between a Green Card and a US visa to know which type of permit you need.

In comparison to Green Cards, which are awarded in the millions, the US issues approximately 6 million short-term visas each year. This guide will explain the differences and the similarities between a US green card vs Visa.

What is a Visa?

A Visa is a document issued by a foreign government that permits the holder to travel to and enter their territory

Most people who want to visit the United States need to obtain a visa to be admitted.  Before travel, they must be applied for at a US embassy or consulate.

There are two types of visas: a tourist visa and a business visa.

1. Non-immigrant visas

This type of visa allows holders to visit the United States for particular reasons, such as job, school, medical treatment, or business visits, and a set period with a set departure date.

They are temporary documents that do not permit the possessor to remain in the United States permanently.

2. Immigrant visas

This sort of visa is harder to obtain, but it permits you to go to the United States and live there permanently as part of the process of applying for a green card.

This visa must be secured before coming to the United States, and the application process is more time-consuming.

Typically, a family member has sponsored the holder. An immigrant visa by itself does not entitle you to citizenship.

You will need a green card if you wish to stay in the United States permanently.

What is a Green Card?

Green cards are actual cards that show the holder is a lawful permanent resident of the United States and can work and travel freely around the country.

Green cards are a form of visa that allows you to live permanently in the United States. After arriving in the United States, green cards are issued.

To be eligible for a green card, an applicant must already hold an immigrant visa and apply to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

After three to five years, green card holders can apply for citizenship. Green cards come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including, but not limited to:

Close relatives of current U.S. citizens and other green card holders are eligible to apply.

Immediate family members, such as parents, siblings, and cousins, are included.

Top 3 Criteria to get a Green Card in America

  1. Green cards based on employment: Certain sorts of employees, and in certain situations, their immediate families, may be granted green cards based on their employment.
  2. Holders of a humanitarian green card: Green cards are available to refugees, asylum seekers, and victims of human trafficking, crime, or abuse.
  3. Winners of the green card lottery: The US government picks up to 50,000 persons at random each year from a pool of entries received from six geographic zones, including Africa, Asia, and Oceania.

Priority is given to persons from countries where there has been minimal recent immigration to the United States. More information about the Diversity Visa Lottery can be found here.

While green cards provide permanent residency, they must be renewed every ten years due to a strange bureaucratic quirk.

4 Differences between a Green Card and a Visa

The most significant difference between visas and green cards is when they are received; a visa is obtained before departure, but a green card is earned after arrival. But that isn’t the only distinction.

#1. Visas must be obtained before departure

There is normally a stamp on a passport that allows entry into the United States.

#2. Visas do not always allow for an indefinite stay

Non-immigrant visas have a specific period of validity, which varies based on the purpose of travel, and they will eventually expire.

#3. Non-immigrant visas are rarely used to obtain permanent residency

Immigrant visas can help you start the process of becoming a permanent resident, but they don’t provide you with residency.

Additionally, a green card is a physical document that certifies the holder’s permission to live and work continuously in the United States.

#4. Green cards can only be obtained once you have arrived in the United States

Before applying for a green card, you must first get an immigrant visa. Citizenship can be obtained by a green card holder.

Benefits of U.S Green Cards

You can benefit from a Green Card in the following ways:

  • Have the same rights as a citizen of the United States (without voting).
  • Travel freely between the United States and Canada.
  • After five years, you can apply to become a US citizen.

For people who desire to make the United States their permanent home, the benefits of a Green Card outweigh the benefits of a visa.

If you do not intend to become a permanent resident of the United States, however, you will require a visa.

Reasons to Get a Green Card

  • For the sake of the family, a Green Card is required.
  • For employment, a green card is required.
  • For returning residents, a green card is required.
  • For the diversity visa, a green card is required.

In comparison, the United States offers over 100 visa types, with the following being some of the most popular:

B1/B2 visa for visitors

B visas are provided for a limited time to allow you to visit the United States for pleasure or business

F1 student visa

A student visa is given to a foreigner who has been accepted into a study program in the United States. It is usually valid for a year to two years after you enter the country.

J1 Visitor exchange visa

The exchange visitor visa is for people who are participating in or attending an exchange program in the United States.

Similarities between a U.S Visa and a U.S green card

Green cards and U.S Visas are both government-issued documents for immigrants. However, they provide their holders with different rights and privileges.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

What are the differences in processing fees for a Green card and a U.S visa?

The application fee for a US visa is $160 without including processing fees which differ from visa to visa.

On the other hand, the filing fee for a Green Card from outside of the US is $1,200, plus additional fees as shown below:

  • Filing form fee: $535
  • Biometrics: $85
  • Medical examination fee:$200-500

There might be other expenses you have to pay for your Green Card especially if you get the help of an immigration lawyer with your case

How Does a Green Card Look Like VS a Visa?

A green card is very similar to an ID in size and form; it’s usually in plastic and has a greenish color— hence the name “Green Card”. A visa is usually a sticker or a stamp attached to your passport.

Traveling with a Green Card VS Traveling With a US Visa which is more preferable?

If you have a Green Card, you can travel freely between the United States and other countries, but you must carry both your card and your home country’s passport with you.

As a Green Card holder, you can also visit these countries without a visa:

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Costa Rica
  • Georgia
  • The British Virgin Islands
  • Aruba and Curaçao
  • The Balkans
  • Singapore
  • Peru

A US visa is issued to travel to the US. Still, it allows you to visit some other countries.


Whether you plan to visit the United States for a short or lengthy period, knowing the difference between a US Green Card vs visa will help you determine which form of permit you require. We hope we have been able to be of help to you.

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