Difference Between An Immigrant Visa And A Green Card

Wondering what the difference between an immigrant visa and a green card are?

When traveling abroad, there are two crucial proofs or documents you MUST be familiar with: An immigrant visa and a green card.

These are two different things that most people erroneously claim to be the same.

But here is the truth of the matter:

Both are government-issued documents for immigrants. However, they provide you with different rights and privileges.

While an immigrant visa allows you to legally enter the country, a green card permits you to stay and live permanently.

However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Below, in this article, we are going to unravel the conflict between these cards –looking at their functions, benefits, and other necessities.

So I suggest you open your mind to everything I’m about to tell you.

What Is Immigrant Visa?

An Immigrant visa is a type of visa issued to a noncitizen who seeks to live and work permanently in the states.

You must have this visa handy before traveling, as it is your pass into the port-of-entry.

It is only after presenting the immigrant visa and the required paperwork to be endorsed by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer, can you be allowed in as a lawful permanent resident.

You should know this visa is very different from the non-immigrant type and is quite difficult to obtain.

To apply for this visa, you’ll be needing a sponsor either by a lawful permanent resident family member (s), a U.S. citizen, or a prospective U.S. employer.

This is usually the first stage where the sponsor files a petition on your behalf to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

It MUST be approved before you can be eligible for an immigrant visa application. Also, this visa type paves your way for a green card.

What Is A Green Card?

 A Green card is a permanent resident plastic photo identification card that is issued AFTER you arrive in the states.

This valid identification card proves that you can now live and work in the United States permanently.

More importantly, holders of this special card MUST have gotten an immigrant visa already. And applications are made to the USCIS as well.

Green cards usually arrive by mail, and with it, you can pursue citizenship after 3 to 5 years.

Notice! A green card can only be issued or replaced in the states and not outside.

In most cases, you’ll need to renew it every 10 years. Those under serious conditions like heavy crimes might be revoked.

So keep it clean during your stay.

Read Also: How To Apply For US Visa

Difference Between An Immigrant Visa And A Green Card?

Difference Between An Immigrant Visa And A Green Card

I’m just going to hit the nail on its head.

An immigrant visa is only obtained before travel. And it is the gateway to getting a green card.

Meanwhile, green cards are only obtained after arrival in the country.

Also, immigrant visas can only start the process for permanent resident Status. However, they can’t provide it themselves.

A green card, on the other hand, represents the holder’s right to live and work permanently within the States with the privilege to citizen’s rights —except the right to vote or receive federal funding.

 While an immigrant visa leads you to having a green card; a green card paves your way to becoming a citizen after 3 to 5 years of ownership.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Is The Expiration Date On My Green Card?

The expiration date is usually located on the front side of the card right under your date of birth.

Aside from date of birth and expiration date, the front face of any green card also holds basic biographical information like name, gender, country of birth, and USCIS number.

How Long Can You Go With An Expired Green Card?

Transportation carriers will board you with an expired green card in less than a year.

Generally, the right thing to do is to call the transportation carrier to confirm permission.

Can I Renew My Green Card Two Months Before It Expires?

Yes, you can.

You can file form 1-90 for a green card renewal. But not earlier than six months before the expiration date, as the USCIS are more likely to reject your application and mail it back to you.

Read Also: How To Apply For Work Permit In USA


So in conclusion, that’s all about the difference between an immigrant visa and a green card.

Although, many people use them interchangeably because most immigration visa holders are also green card holders and vice-versa.

But thanks to this article we now know they differ in terms of rights and privileges.

Both proofs are not easy to obtain unlike the B1 visitor visa or any other non-immigrant visa.

The reason for this been only a specific number of immigrant visas are issued each year with strict eligibility requirements.

Plus every seeker needs a sponsor to petition for them.