Green Card versus Visa: What’s the Difference?

When seeking entry to the United States, it is imperative you understand the differences between a green card and visas. It is a common mistake to assume that the two are the same — in fact, they are vastly different from one another. A visa and green card each serve a different purpose. Further, they each include a different process for entering the country. Primarily, a visa is a temporary admittance that allows you to come into the United States, while a green card is a permit that allows you stay in the country without an expiration date.

The Types of Visa

  • Non-Immigrant Visa: A non-immigrant visa is one that is issued to someone who wishes to stay in the United States for a specified amount of time. Upon the visa’s expiration, you will then leave the United States to go back to your country. Non-immigrant visas do not lead to permanent residency and often are tourist or business visas.
  • Immigrant Visa: An immigrant visa allows you to enter the country, and it will also give you an an opportunity to adjust to a permanent resident.

If you are in the U.S. on a visa, you can only work if you have an employment visa. Tourist visas do not give you permission to work in the country for wages.

The Green Card or Permanent Residency Status

A green card is a legal permanent residency admittance, and once you have a green card, you are no longer an immigrant. You have now obtained permanent residency status in the United States, and you are not limited as to how long you can stay in the country.

Your green card typically does not expire (unless it is a conditional green card) and there are limitations to that allowance. If you were to commit a crime or were to violate the terms and conditions of your green card, the courts can retract the green card, and you could be deported.

A green card gives you the liberty to work where you would like, including in any occupation or industry that you are qualified for. You will have the same rights as an American citizen, but you do not have the right to serve on a jury, receive federal college grants, or vote.

If you are unsure which option is right for you, speak with an immigration attorney from Udall Shumway, PLC to explore your options for entering the United States legally and to receive assistance with your application.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Green Card versus Visa, or other Immigration Law matters, please feel free to contact Phil D. Ortega at 480.461.5330, log on to,  or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.