Moving To The USA? Learn About Green Cards and Visas

If you are thinking of relocating to the USA it’s important to understand the difference between a Green Card and a work visa.

For those seeking to relocate to the United States, either for work or to live there permanently, there are several options available.

There is a common misconception that the United States work visa is the same as a Green Card when, in reality, they are separate entities with different processes. They offer different options and stipulations on your entry and stay in America, and getting the correct one for your specific purpose is important.

It is vital that those considering moving stateside compare the options available to them and so here we’ve outlined the basic differences between the two.


United States Green Cards

The US Green Card is essentially an alien registration card that aids foreign nationals in proving their legal status. The Green Card, named for colour it used to be, allows foreign nationals to live and work wherever they choose in the United States. Once you have a Green Card of your own you can then help relatives also seeking a Green Card with their application.

With a Green Card, and providing that a few conditions have been met, foreign nationals can become fully-fledged citizens of the United States and can work without employment authorisation documents.

Green Card holders must make the United States their permanent residence and so there are limitations on how long they can leave the country. Travel abroad is, of course, allowed but only for a limited number of days, otherwise a Green Card allocation can be revoked.

Green Cards also have an expiration date which involves a renewal process every ten years. It is of the utmost importance that permanent residents remember to do this but it does not affect the permanent residence status and it is only the Green Card itself that has to be renewed.

This does not extend to conditional residents who only hold two-year cards that cannot be renewed and will be expired if necessary steps to convert to lawful permanent resident status are not undertaken.


United States Work Visas

A work visa permits foreign nationals to work in the United States but that is all it allows, as a single document, and does not necessarily guarantee residence in the United States.

In order to obtain a work visa, a foreign national must be sponsored by a US employer and the foreign nationals work visa is only valid as long as they work for a particular employer.

Work visas are only valid for a limited period and will expire, unlike Green Cards which, although they need renewal, do not expire.

Work visas are for those who really only intend to work in the United States for a temporary period while those who wish to work permanently in the country must go for a Green Card.

You may not be granted legal status if you get into the country on a work visa, whereas a Green Card means that you are a legal resident of the country.


Immigration into America specialise in all aspects of immigration to each of the different American states.

Feel free to contact us for any further information.