Working and living in the United States has many benefits. However, getting to the country can be confusing when you start thinking about Green Cards and visas.
The first step is knowing the difference between Green Cards and visas. Once you do, it becomes much easier to apply for the right category so you can travel, work, or live in the US.
Green Cards are always issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) office. You would obtain a Green Card if you want to become a full-time legal citizen of the USA.
Having a Green Card (officially known as a Permanent Resident Card) allows you to live, work or study permanently in America. The steps you must take to apply for your Green Card will vary depending on your personal situation.
The process of obtaining a Green Card is lengthy and must be started by a “sponsor” who is already a citizen of the USA unless you apply for your Green Card via the Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery (also known as the Green Card Lottery).
To be eligible for the Green Card Lottery, you must follow the 16 steps. Each step is very important, which is all the more reason why you should use an immigration service.In 2017, 1,183,505 people became lawful permanent residents (LPRs), also known as green-card holders, according to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data.
How many Singles and Families apply for the Green Card Lottery?
For the DV-2021 program, 23.2 million qualified applications were registered. The program is so popular that it had a massive 19 percent increase over the previous year. The application number varies each year depending on which countries are eligible
However, there are currently only 50,000 available slots for Green Cards. The list of eligible countries changes each year, as it depends on immigration statistics from the previous 5 years.
A visa is a temporary permission to travel to the United State for one of many reasons.We have listed the different categories of visas:
- Tourism & Visit
- Study & Exchange
- Other visa Categories
Importantly, you can only take part in certain activities when in the US under a visa. For example, if you apply for a tourism visa, you can’t get a job. With a business visa, you can attend various business-related activities but must be paid by your foreign employer.
All visas always have an expiration date stamped on the visa pages that are placed in the visa holder’s passport. This visa must be shown to immigration when a visa holder enters the USA.
There are 40 visa-free countries, meaning travelers can legally enter the US for up to 90 days without needing a visa. It makes things like tourism much simpler. The countries include Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Australia and South Korea, to name a few.
While citizens from these countries can enter the US without a visa, they still need one for work-related reasons if they plan to get a job.
Where visas become confusing is there can be several different subcategories within the above-listed categories.
The Difference Between Green Cards and Visas
Based on the above information, the difference between Green Cards and visas should be fairly obvious. To break it down in a bit more detail, here are the main differences between the two:
- You’re issued with a visa before traveling, whereas you’re issued with a Green Card once you enter the US.
- While you must apply for both before traveling, you must renew a Green Card every 12 months while living in the country.
- Visas don’t allow you to stay indefinitely; they always have an end date. If your Green Card is renewed, you can stay in the US for as long as you want.
- A non-immigrant visa doesn’t start you towards citizenship. While an immigrant visa does, it in itself isn’t residency status.
- A Green Card gives you lawful permanent resident status, which you can convert into citizenship after 5 years.
- A Green Card is your permission to live and work in the US. Technically, a visa will only give you the right to work, if you apply for that, of course.
Choosing Between Green Cards and Visas
So, how do you choose between Green Cards and visas? Ultimately, it comes down to the purpose of your trip. If you’re going on vacation, a business trip, or are planning some kind of workaway job, a visa will be fine.
It’s worth looking into the different kinds of visas to see what they entitle you to do.
A Green Card, however, is the right choice if you want to live permanently (or at least long term) in the US. Therefore, it shouldn’t actually be that difficult of a decision to make. After all, it’s based on what you want to do in the US, and how long you plan to stay there.
Applying for Green Cards and Visas
Applying for visas isn’t as complicated or long-winded as Green Cards. That said, you should always seek advice from a lawyer or your national US consulate/embassy if you’re unsure.
Most immigrants apply for the Green Card Program because it is an easy pathway to become legal citizens of the United States. It’s the more suitable option if you want long-term employment in the country.
Like a visa application, though, you should stick to reputable sources to avoid any potential immigration scams.
You should always apply directly on US GREEN CARD OFFICE