What is the Difference Between a Green Card and a Visa


A green card is a permanent residency card. It gives you the right to live, work, and study in the United States indefinitely.

A visa is a short-term document that permits you to remain in the United States for a specified period of time.

Do you have to get a visa to get a green card?

Yes. You must obtain a visa before you obtain a green card, though you may file both immigration petitions at the same time. Your visa will be stamped into your passport before you travel to the United States.

To obtain a green card, you must already be present in the United States. Once you apply, your ability to travel outside of the United States becomes limited. You will usually want to obtain advance parole before leaving the United States for any significant period of time.

What kinds of visas exist?

Visas come in two major forms: nonimmigrant visas and immigrant visas. Non-immigrant visas allow you to stay within the United States for a specified period of time without allowing you to apply for a green card.

Immigrant visas allow you to apply for a green card.

Of course, there are many subcategories within those two categories, including student visas, traveler visas, worker’s visas, and more. Working with a qualified immigration lawyer can help you determine which visa is right for your situation and goals. 

Can a green card holder lose their green card?

There are five ways a green card may be lost.

  1. Living outside the United States for more than 12 months or leaving the United States for more than six months without a re-entry permit. 
  2. Voluntary surrender. 
  3. USCIS discovers that you obtained your green card through fraud or willful misrepresentation.
  4. Certain types of criminal convictions. 
  5. A failure to remove conditions on residence by converting a two-year conditional green card to a permanent 10-year green card.

If you would like to travel at will and want to remove any danger of losing your green card status, then it may be wise to begin the process of naturalization, which will transform you into a citizen. A naturalized citizen may also vote and serve on a jury. 

Should I carry my green card everywhere?

Yes. You must carry your green card with you at all times. Failure to carry it is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a $100 fine or up to $30 days in jail. It’s not a bad idea to keep an electronic copy as well as a physical copy, just in case. 

How can I get a green card?

The first step is to reach out to a qualified immigration lawyer. The team at Hykel Law can help you choose and apply for the right green card program. We can also help you maximize your chances of success by ensuring all your paperwork is filled out correctly and that you’ve provided enough evidence to make your application successful.

Ready to get started? Contact Hykel Law today.

See also:

Are There Risks to Applying for Citizenship?

Understanding Re-Entry Permits for Permanent Residents

How Green Card Renewals Work

We Help Solve Immigration Challenges

How can we help you? Click on one of the boxes below to get started:


Employment & Investment Visas

Although it often comes with controversy, immigration into the United States has always played a major role in the strength of its economy. Perhaps no one understands this more than the residents of Philadelphia, where the Liberty Bell still welcomes foreigners to one of the richest historical communities of our country.


Family Visas

Not knowing or understanding the system and laws of the U.S. can be a disadvantage for many foreign immigrants who wish to obtain permanent residency in the United States, either for themselves or for their loved ones. Hykel Law’s Family-Based Immigration Services can lead you through the complicated process to achieve either temporary or permanent residency, depending on your situation.


Deportation Defense

Are you afraid of deportation? If you are a foreign national involved in the beginning stages of removal proceedings, the deportation attorney at Hykel Law in Philadelphia can help prevent this unfortunate situation. We can evaluate your immigration case and find the best strategy to defend you from removal proceedings to help you stay in the United States.

Call Now ButtonCall Us Now