Immigration law and procedures are complicated, and there can even be confusion about terminology such as visas vs. Green Cards. In some cases, these two things may be very different, but in others, they are virtually the same.

If you are planning to immigrate or visit the United States, it is important to understand these differences. A dedicated immigration lawyer in Lombard can help you understand the differences and choose the path that is right for you.

The United States Government Issues Two Main Types of Visas

The U.S. State Department issues two primary types of visas — immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas. Immigrant visas allow the holder to live and work permanently in the U.S., while nonimmigrant visas enable a foreign national to come to the U.S. on a temporary basis for a particular purpose such as study, visiting family, tourism, medical procedures or employment.

When foreign nationals enter the U.S. with immigrant visas, they are eligible for a card identifying them as lawful permanent residents (LPRs). The Permanent Resident Card used to be green, so having LPR status became known as “having a Green Card.” That card entitles the holder to many privileges, including the right to petition for immigration on behalf of immediate family members. Therefore, having an immigration visa can be said to be essentially the same thing as having a Green Card.

By contrast, having a nonimmigrant visa may entitle the holder to certain benefits, but it does not have the permanent status afforded by an immigrant visa. The benefits conferred by a temporary visa depend on the type of visa issued and other circumstances.

Types of Visas in Lombard

Although the government issues numerous types of visas for employment, study, and other purposes, the easiest type of visa to obtain is probably a visitor visa such as a Business (B1) or Tourist (B2) visa. A business visitor visa enables the holder to undertake activities such as meeting with business associates, attending conferences, negotiating contracts, and settling estates. A tourism visa permits the holder to do a wide variety of things, from visiting vacation destinations or spending time with family to undergoing medical procedures, participating in sports competitions and joining in social events. However, visitor visas do not enable the holder to:

  • Enroll in a course of study
  • Work in any paid capacity
  • Enter as a crewmember of a ship or aircraft 
  • Work in the press or information media

Most importantly, a visitor visa or any other type of temporary visa does not allow the holder to live permanently in the U.S. The visa will be granted for a finite time and will expire at the end of that period.

The Process for Obtaining a Green Card

To obtain an immigration visa in Lombard that gives the holder status as a lawful permanent resident with a Green Card, different qualifications are required depending on the category under which the visa is sought. Most immigrant visas are granted based on family connection or employment and they are prioritized based on the degree of family relationship or the work qualifications of the employee.

In these cases, a family member or employer sponsors the applicant and files a petition for immigration on their behalf with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Once that is approved, it moves to the National Visa Center for processing and a formal application.

The number of visas granted in most categories is limited annually, so in many cases, applicants must wait a substantial period before their applications will be formally considered. To help avoid long waits, it is important to comply with all deadlines and requirements and to properly document all necessary information.

Speaking to a Lombard Lawyer for More Information About Visas and Green Cards

Because immigration law is so complex and the visa application process can be confusing, it may be best to consult a Lombard immigration lawyer. A knowledgeable attorney can discuss visas vs. Green Cards and help you choose the path that is right for you. Call today for an initial consultation.

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