What is the Difference Between a Green Card and a Visa?

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Are you planning to move to the U.S. permanently or for a short time? Chances are you’ve come across the words green card and visa. While it is easy to confuse the two, each is unique to U.S. immigrants and their families.

Moffitt Law, LLC in Georgia understands these nuances in the U.S. immigration system to help you smoothly navigate the application process for these documents and more. Reach out to a Georgia immigration lawyer today to clear up any confusion you may have.

What Is a U.S. Visa?

A visa is a stamp put on your passport as a permit to enter the U.S. for temporary visits. Visas are obtained at a U.S. embassy or consulate before you travel.

At the port of entry, you must submit a visa to seek access, and the border officer decides whether to grant you entry or not.

Types of Visas

There are two types of visas: immigrant visas and non-immigrant visas.

Non-Immigrant Visa

A non-immigrant visa allows a person to visit the United States for a designated period and must leave before the expiry of your visa on the date issued at the point of entry.

You may be visiting the U.S. for work, education, medical procedures, tourism, or business reasons. In that case, you must have a visa stamped on your passport unless you are a citizen of the 40 nationalities eligible for visa-free entry under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

However, you are only allowed to visit or do business for up to 90 days, and you must return to your country.

Immigrant Visa

An immigrant visa allows you to move to the U.S. to live there permanently. Acquiring an immigrant visa is an extensive process, as the U.S. embassy will scrutinize your visa before approval. You should obtain your permit before you travel to the U.S. Once you receive your visa, you have to get a green card to give you a path to citizenship.

For you to obtain an immigrant visa, your petition should be filed by a citizen of the U.S. However, refugees, asylum immigrants, and Diversity Visa Lottery winners can apply for immigrant visas without a petition from a citizen.

What Is a Green Card?

A green card, officially known as a permanent resident card, is a document issued after arrival to the U.S. It allows you to work, travel or live anywhere in the U.S. To apply for a green card from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you must have an immigrant visa already.

Green cards expire after ten years; if you want to stay in the U.S. after ten years, you must renew your green card 6 months before your expiration date. You can pursue citizenship after 3 to 5 years.

Green cards arrive by mail after your arrival to the U.S., or if you have applied for permanent residence within the U.S. You must not violate the law as a green card holder, or you might be deported even before your ten-year mark.

Types of Green Cards


Family-based green cards are available to the immediate relatives of a green card holder or a U.S. citizen. They include parents, siblings, and children.


Regarding employment-based green cards, certain workers can apply for green cards to work in the U.S. The U.S. employer has to file a petition to the USCIS for you to get an employment-based green card.

Humanitarian Green Cards

Refugees, asylum seekers, and victims of human trafficking and crime can apply for green cards. You must have enough reasons and evidence to prove to the USCIS your need for a green card.

Green Card Lottery Winners

Every year around the first week of October to the first week of November, the U.S. government selects around 50,000 random applicants from foreign countries who must go before a U.S. embassy. The consulate can then grant or deny the visa. This program is called the Diversity Visa Lottery.

Moffitt Law, LLC in Georgia Can Help With Visa and Green Card Procedures

Before you plan your trip to the U.S., ensure you have the correct documentation.

At Moffitt Law, LLC, we are experienced in immigration issues and will help you with your visa and green card application status. We serve Carrollton and LaGrange, Georgia. Contact us today for green card and visa application assistance.

Green Card FAQs

What should you do if you lose your green card?

If you’ve lost your green card, you must replace it as soon as possible by filling out an application for green card renewal. As a green card holder, you must always have your card with you.

Can a green card be revoked?

Yes. A green card’s validity can be revoked if you are convicted of fraud and other crimes.

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