Some mistakenly believe that a visa and a green card are one and the same, but this is a misconception. In actuality, the difference between visas vs. green cards is that a visa may let you enter the United States for a set time period, but a green card might allow you to stay here.

In contrast to a green card, which is a document to be carried with the holder, a visa is affixed to a passport. Although some people are able to acquire a visa to live and work in the United States, the situation might not become permanent, unless they obtain a green card.

Nonimmigrant Visas vs. Immigrant Visas

If citizens or permanent residents of a foreign country would like permission to enter the United States for a finite amount of time, they could acquire a nonimmigrant visa (NIV). There are about 20 kinds of nonimmigrant visas, including those for the purpose of medical treatment, tourism, and temporary work or study.

Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security manages a Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The program’s policy allows residents of certain countries to visit the United States for up to 90 days without a visa for such reasons as business or tourism.

Conversely, individuals who want to reside permanently in the United States would need to petition for an immigrant visa. Immigrant visas could allow recipients to remain in the United States while they are applying for their green card. These visas, as opposed to green cards, commonly require a family or business sponsor while the individual is present in America.

Green Cards vs. Visas

Although visas have a fixed amount of time attached, green cards are either conditional or permanent. If someone achieves lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, that person may lawfully live and work in America in perpetuity. However, if a person receives a conditional green card, then it may have conditions attached.

Conditional green cards generally remain in effect for 24 months. To have the conditions removed, a recipient of this type of authorization must apply for the concession within 90 days prior to the green card’s expiration date.

Even if a green card is not conditionally, it might only remain valid for ten years. In such cases, the ten-year card may be renewed within six months before the end of the decade. Green cards that convey lawful permanent residency may not have to be renewed, but they must be replaced by contacting USCIS if they are lost or stolen.

A green card could be beneficial in that it may allow the holder to prove his or her eligibility to be employed in the United States. Moreover, people with a green card could present it when they are applying for social security or a state driver’s license.

Speak with an Attorney About Differences Between Visas and Green Cards

If you were not certain about the differences between visas vs. green cards, you are not alone. Knowing the types and authorizations that each provides may allow you to make a more informed application for the one that you think you need.

However, it may be prudent to consult with a seasoned immigration lawyer about your requirements, as a lawyer has likely dealt with cases similar to yours. Call today to speak with a local attorney.

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