You may have heard of visas and green cards, but do you know the difference? Visas and green cards are two important documents in the world of immigration. Both help non-U.S. citizens legally travel to, reside in, or work in the United States for extended periods.

To obtain a visa or green card, applicants must meet certain qualifications and follow specific steps. Here, we’ll discuss the key differences between visas and green cards, what type of visa or green card is best for you, the benefits of having a green card, and the requirements for obtaining one.

What are Visas and Green Cards?

So, what exactly are visas and green cards?

Visas and green cards both serve as official documents that allow foreign nationals to enter reside in, or work in the United States. Generally speaking, a visa is an endorsement placed into a passport by U.S. authorities that grants permission to enter the United States. At the same time, a green card serves as proof of permanent residency in the United States.

Distinguishing characteristics of visas and green cards

The primary distinction between a visa and a green card is that visas only provide temporary permission to enter the United States, while green cards grant permanent residency. Additionally, visas are typically tailored towards specific purposes such as study, work, or tourism, while green cards provide more general permission for living and working in the United States.

Types of Visas

Let’s take a closer look at the types of visas available for non-U.S. citizens seeking to enter, reside in, or work in the United States.

Immigrant vs. non-immigrant visas

U.S. immigration policy distinguishes between “immigrant” and “non-immigrant” visas. Immigrant visas are designed for foreign nationals who wish to live and work in the United States permanently. In contrast, non-immigrant visas are intended for those seeking to enter the U.S. temporarily.

Most visas granted by the United States are non-immigrant visas, and they can range from business or tourist visas to student or work visas. In contrast, immigrant visas are intended for those seeking permanent residency in the United States.

Temporary vs. permanent residency visas

The U.S. immigration system also differentiates between temporary and permanent residency visas. Temporary visas only allow foreign nationals to stay in the United States for a limited period of time. In contrast, permanent residency visas give holders the right to remain in the United States indefinitely.

 The most common type of temporary visa is the H1B visa, which allows a foreign national to work for a specific employer for up to three years.

People who gain permanent residency in the United States may be eligible for a green card. Generally speaking, individuals must meet specific eligibility criteria and provide documentation to apply for a green card.

Benefits of a Green Card

Holding a green card has many advantages that can help foreign nationals make the most of their U.S. stay.

Eligibility to work

One of the primary benefits of having a green card is that it gives you the right to work in the United States legally. This can be especially helpful for foreign nationals seeking employment or professional advancement in the country, as employers typically prefer individuals with permanent residency over those with temporary visas.

Right to travel freely

Another advantage of having a green card is that you are granted the freedom to travel in and out of the United States without any restrictions. This means you can leave and return as often as you like without fear of being denied entry or facing other legal issues. 

Access to social services

Finally, green card holders are also eligible for a range of social services offered by the U.S. government. These services include access to healthcare, education, and other public benefits that can help improve quality of life.

Requirements for Obtaining a Green Card

To gain permanent residency status in the United States, applicants must fulfill certain eligibility criteria and provide documentation of their eligibility.

Eligibility Criteria

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)  outlines several eligibility criteria for obtaining a green card, including:

  • Having an immigrant petition approved by USCIS;
  • Being sponsored by an immediate relative who is already a U.S. citizen or permanent resident;
  • Having been granted asylum; and
  • Qualifying through various other categories, such as employment, family ties, or the diversity immigration program.

Documentation required

In addition to satisfying the above eligibility criteria, applicants must also provide documentation of their identity and residency status to apply for a green card. Documentation such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, proof of residence in the United States, and other relevant documents may be required.


In conclusion, Visas and Green Cards are not just for everyone. Obtaining one requires careful planning and meeting various requirements, including eligibility criteria and documentation.

By understanding the differences between Visas and Green Cards, their respective benefits, and the requirements for obtaining them, you will be able to make an informed decision about your immigration needs.

Whether you choose a visa or green card, it is important to remember that each comes with its own set of benefits and specific obligations. With diligent work and persistence, you can make your dreams of a new life in the United States come true. 

Neda Zaman Esq.

Immigration Attorney in Encino, Los Angeles

Services in English, Farsi, Arabic, Armenian, Turkish

Address: 16633 Ventura Blvd suite 510, Encino, CA 91436

Phone: +1(310)855-0992 | +1(818)290-3625