What Is A US Green Card And How Is It Different From A Visa?

What Is A US Green Card And How Is It Different From A Visa

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers different types of immigrant visas, including non-immigrant visas, and immigrant visa numbers. If you want to stay in the country, you should have either a US Visa or a US Green Card. But how are these two different?

Short Answer: The difference between a US Visa and a US Green Card is the length of stay, wherein the former is a temporary pass while the latter provides permanent residency.

What Is A Us Green Card?

A US Green Card, also known formally as an immigrant visa, is an identification card issued to permanent residents of the United States by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) under the INA as proof that the bearer has become a legal permanent resident of the country.

Here are the good-to-know facts about obtaining a US Green Card:

  • It is issued to an applicant after being interviewed and cleared by a US immigration officer. The requirements for obtaining a US Green Card are the same as those of a normal visa. Some, however, have different requirements, depending on the country they’re coming from.
  • In order to obtain an immigrant visa, one needs to be at least eighteen years of age and a US citizen. Anyone who is below eighteen or is in the process of obtaining US citizenship can only apply for an immigrant visa if he or she has been physically present in the country for at least six months.
  • Immigrants may apply for either the immigrant visa with or without family. One must provide his or her Social Security Number (SSN) in order to receive an immigrant visa. However, if there is no SSN, the application will be declined.
  • Once you have a US Green Card, you can reside in the country legally. It is important that an immigrant does not obtain a Green Card before he or she reaches the age of 21 years old. Otherwise, he or she will need to wait until that age and submit another application which has higher requirements to attain permanent residency.

What Is A US Visa?

As previously mentioned, a US visa provides a temporary residency to any non-US citizen or alien. There are different US visas available depending on the purpose of stay, such as a tourist visa for those visiting as tourists in the country, a working visa for those who are qualified to work, or a student visa for those who want to study in the US. In short, there is an expiration date to staying in the country, and overstaying could result in legal consequences. 

What’s A US Visa Overstay?

An overstay refers when a foreigner stays in the US longer than his visa has allowed. Remember that all US visas have expiration dates which are stated on the I-94 Form. There are many reasons why people overstay in the US or still stay in the country beyond the expiration of their visa, including the following: 

  • Some people enter the country using tourist visas but decide to stay for good because of plenty of opportunities awaiting them. However, they may encounter problems processing their tourist visas to work visas.
  • Others come in the US for student purposes and they tend to overstay after completing their studies. They do not know that this may be illegal and they are caught overstaying on a visa by an immigration officer.


If you are applying with your local United States consulate, you will be able to apply for a visa or a Green Card without going through any kind of immigration agency. This is important since the process of applying for a US Green Card is complicated and requires certain things to be in place before the application can be processed. Here’s how to apply for a US Visa or a Green Card:

  • When you apply for a US Green Card, you will first be required to fill out an F-4 form. This form is used to determine if you are eligible to apply for a visa or a Green Card. 
  • You will need to present all of your documents to prove that you meet the requirements of the form and that you have an interest in immigrating to the United States.
  • Once you have completed your F-4 and received approval, you will be given instructions about how to fill out a petition for a green card. You will also be required to pay any required fees for the application.


Unlike the US Green Card that allows permanent stay in the United States, a US visa is only good up until its expiration date. In terms of application ad requirements, applying for a US Green card involves a more lengthy and complex process compared to a US Visa since it will grant you a permanent US citizenship.