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What’s the difference between a Green Card and a US visa?

The terms Green Card and U.S. visa are sometimes confused, but they represent very distinct statuses in the United States. To understand the differences, let’s review the principles behind the two authorizations and their main differences.

What is a Green Card?

The Green Card is a permanent resident card. It enables its holder to live and work permanently in the United States. Unlike a temporary visa, the Green Card confers permanent resident status. It opens the way to American citizenship after a specific period.

What is an American visa?

A U.S. visa is a document issued by a U.S. embassy allowing a person to travel to the U.S. border and request permission to enter the country. Visas are for temporary stays or permanent immigration, but do not confer permanent resident status.

Key differences

  1. Purpose: The Green Card is intended for those seeking to become permanent residents of the United States. A U.S. visa is used to enter the U.S. temporarily or to immigrate before obtaining a Green Card.
  2. Duration: A Green Card is valid for 10 years for permanent residents and must be renewed, but the status remains permanent. Visas have a specific duration, determined by the type of visa and the purpose of the stay.
  3. Rights granted: Green Card holders can work anywhere in the United States and enjoy certain social benefits. Visa holders are limited by the conditions of their specific visa.
  4. Application process: The procedure for obtaining a Green Card is often based on family, employment or other special categories. It is also possible to obtain a Green Card by lottery. The visa process generally begins with an application to the U.S. embassy or consulate.