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What Are the Key Differences Between Visas & Green Cards? May 13, 2020

Downtown Honolulu, Honolulu
What Are the Key Differences Between Visas & Green Cards?, Honolulu, Hawaii

Although visas and green cards are both government-issued documents that allow immigrants legal entry into the U.S., the similarity ends there. The rights and privileges they are each designed to provide applicants are vastly different. Therefore, if you are looking to stay in the States for any length of time, it’s crucial that you have a clear understanding of whether you will need a visa or green card. Below is a basic overview of the major distinctions between the two.

How Do Visas & Green Cards Differ?


A visa gives immigrants the opportunity to enter the United States for a specific time and purpose. Citizens of most foreign countries are required to obtain one before they can travel to America. It offers temporary status Stateside, but permanent residence will remain in a different country. There are two types of visas: Non-immigrant and immigrant. Non-immigrant visas allow people to temporarily visit the country for a certain period of time. Usually, holders of these visas are not permitted to work while in the U.S., and they must either leave the States or request an extension before their visa is set to expire. In contrast, immigrant visas will allow entry into the country on a permanent basis. 

Green Card 

green cardGreen cards permit a foreign citizen to live and work lawfully in the U.S without any time limit. They serve as proof that a non-U.S. citizen has legal status in the country. Green card holders may also sponsor their immediate relatives to get a green card and live and work in the States as well. This is not possible with a visa. Also, green cards come with some government benefits and the potential to qualify for U.S. citizenship, while visas do not. Green cards are much more challenging to get approved for. Only a small number of these are issued each year, and the eligibility requirements are strict. It’s important to recognize that green cards can be revoked if the government believes a holder is maintaining residency in another country. 


If you have an immigrant visa and wish to apply for a green card, it’s essential to consult with an immigration lawyer first. The Law Office of Carmen DiAmore-Siah will ensure you qualify before guiding you through the application process. For more than two decades, this attorney has served the Honolulu, HI, community with high-quality legal advice and representation. Contact her office at (808) 531-2277, or visit her website for more information. 

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