The Difference Between a Green Card and a Visa

Green cards and visas are often mentioned when immigration to the United States is being discussed. The document that is commonly known as a green card is issued by U.S. Customs and Immigration Services. It’s a form of identification that has a photo on it of the person who it was issued to. It’s a relatively simple way of confirming that a person is a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. A foreign national takes the first step to becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States by filing a Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.


If you’re coming to the United States, a visa is required, but it doesn’t carry the same legal effect as a green card. Most foreign nationals will apply for a U.S. visa by filing a Form DS-160 Application for Nonimmigrant Visa. A visa might also be an immigrant visa like in a family-sponsored immigration category. Upon issuance of a U.S. visa, it’s stamped on a foreign national’s passport at the U.S. consulate in his or her home country. That visa doesn’t necessarily guarantee entry into the United States though. That decision is made by an official from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol at the foreign national’s port of entry. All nonimmigrant visas have an expiration date. The visa holder must either extend that date or leave the country by then. There are times when a person with a nonimmigrant visa might even be able to apply for a change in status to lawful permanent residence like with certain employment-based visas.

Remember that lawful permanent residence allows a person to live, work and have a family in the United States and stay here indefinitely. A visa allows a foreign national to enter the United States for a specific period of time for a specific reason. If you have questions about obtaining lawful permanent residency, adjusting your status or extending your visa. contact us here at Maison Law Immigration Lawyers. We’ll be pleased to discuss possible solutions to your situation. We want to see you succeed here in the United States.