What Is An Immigrant Visa? (Well Explained)

If you wish to live and work overseas permanently, the immigrant visa will get your foot in the door.

As you know, it is wise to have an understanding of what you’re really up against beforehand, to avoid anything that will cause your travel or stay.

And that’s precisely what this article teaches—giving you a detailed description of what is an immigrant visa.

Aside from that, we’ll be answering some of the frequently asked questions regarding this topic.

So without wasting much of your time, what is an immigrant visa?

What Is An Immigrant Visa?

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

This visa allows you to pass the country’s port-of-entry into the states.

NOTE! Immigrant visa and non-immigrant visa types differ. (More soon)

Also, you’ll be needing a sponsor to file a petition on your behalf to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, either by a lawful permanent resident relative, a prospective U.S. employer, or a U.S. citizen.

And you’re only eligible for an immigrant visa application if the petition was approved.

What Are The Categories Of Immigration Status In The U.S.?

The reason we are bringing this up is that you want to know EXACTLY where your immigrant visa falls, so you too can understand basic immigration law and policy — which you don’t have to be a lawyer for that.  

And since criminal conviction has a funny way of ruining or complicating your immigration process, we will also touch on that.

So let’s quickly check the four existing types of immigration status, which are; citizens, residents, non-immigrants, and undocumented.

U.S. Citizens

What Is An Immigrant Visa

These are immigrants who were later “naturalized” after three or five years as permanent residents or were either born in the states.

With this status, you can work not only permanently but also legally in the country.

You are open to receiving any public benefits, and nothing, I mean, NOTHING can get you deported, unless you got the citizenship through fraud.

Lastly, a green card will get you to this point and you can petition for the legal status of any of your siblings as well.

Permanent or Conditional Residents

In a nutshell;

Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) are “green card” holders.

Immigrant visas and green cards are both. Those with it have been granted authorization to live and work permanently in the United States.

As for conditional residents, they are those married less than two years before receiving their green card. 

Both statuses are worthy of living permanently in the U.S. unless they are involved in serious criminal offenses or violate some immigration policies.

With either of these resident statuses, you can also petition for legal status for your relatives.


A non-immigrant visa is quite different from an immigrant visa.

A non-immigrant visa will also let you into the country legally, however, only temporarily.

Although, recipients of these visa types do not intend to immigrate.


Undocumented referred to people who are not authorized to work or stay in the country.

They are somehow illegally in. Usually, they run the risk of being deported.

What Are The Types Of Immigrant Visa?

There are various types of immigrant visas, which we have discussed in detail if you follow the link. So we will only list some out here.

  • Immediate Relative & Family
  • Employment-Based Immigrants
  • Diversity Immigrant Visa
  • Returning Resident

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Earlier on we talked about immigrant visas and green cards being legal permanent resident status.

You might also be wondering if they are the same.

Well, we have also treated this as a topic of its own. So endeavor to follow the link if you seek to understand both on a broader scale.

To succinctly put, an immigrant visa type is given to a noncitizen who plans to live and work permanently in the country.

They are traditionally given before traveling into the States.

Meanwhile, green cards are permanent resident cards issued by USCIS after entry.

All immigrant visa do reach their prime in six months.

That said, you must arrive and apply for admission no later than the visa expiration date.