The Green Card Vs A US Visa – What’s The Difference?

According to one of the most recent counts, there are around 1.3 million expats residing in the USA and Canada, the precise same number as can be found in Australia.

Overall, the US remains the third largest country in the world and the second most popular destination for expats when leaving the UK, and this trend is likely to continue following the removal of the latter from the EU.

However, relocation to the states has become increasingly complex of late, due to factors such as the coronavirus pandemic and changing immigration laws. In this post, we’ll explore the difference between a green card and US visa, while asking how you can process a successful application.

Visas and Green Cards Explained

Visas are incredibly common amongst those who wish to enter the US, and you must process your application through a US embassy or consulate prior to travel.

There are two types of visa available, starting with non-immigrant documents. These enable holders to visit the US for specific purposes, including work, education, medical reasons or business trips, while they also stipulate specific time-frames and a clear departure date from the US.

You can also apply for an immigrant visa, which is less widely available and more difficult to obtain. However, this type of documentation enables you to travel freely to the US and potentially live there permanently in the future, while it must also be obtained prior to travelling to North America.

Usually, the applicant has to be sponsored by a family member, while this alone isn’t a path to citizenship. Similarly, both types of visa do not allow the holder to permanently reside in the US, so it’s important to consider this as an applicant. 

In contrast, green cards are physical entities that afford a holder permanent residence in the United States, giving them the legal right to work and travel anywhere in North America.

Typically, there’s also granted after arrival in the US, and you’ll also need to liaise with legal immigration experts to successfully tackle the complex and time-consuming application process.

Citizenship can be pursued after a period of between three and five years, whole applications may be based on factors such as family, employment, humanitarian grounds and even ‘green card’ lottery wins.

What’s the Difference Between These Documents?

The primary difference between visas and a green card is timing; with the former obtained prior to travel and the latter applied for between three and five years after your arrival.

Similarly, while immigrant visas can kicstart the process for permanent resident status, it’s not enough by itself to achieve such an objective.

In contrast, a green card reflects the holder’s right to permanently live and work within the boundaries of the United States, which is why the application process is considerably longer and more complex.

This highlights another key difference before these types of documentation, of course, as immigrant and non-immigrant visas are typically easier to apply for and a little more accessible.

Ultimately, the onus is on you to seek out the correct advice and determine the type of immigration document that best suits your needs, while being organised in your approach and allowing yourself time to process your subsequent application.


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