A United States visa allows travel to the border of the U.S., whereas a Green Card (permanent resident card) is issued to an immigrant admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident.

To enter the United States, a citizen of a foreign country must generally first obtain a U.S. visa. A visa allows travel to a port of entry or border crossing of the United States. The visa indicates that a consular official at a U.S. Embassy abroad has determined the traveler is eligible to seek entry for the specific purpose of the visa (for example, as a tourist or on business). At the border, the visa holder may be granted admission to the U.S. for a specified status and period of time.

There are two main categories of U.S. visas:

  • Nonimmigrant visas - for travel to the United States on a temporary basis. There are more than 20 nonimmigrant visa types (Example: visas for medical treatment, or for journalists).
  • Immigrant visas - for travel to live permanently in the United States. There are an even greater number of immigrant visa types (Example: spouse of a U.S. Citizen, or Employment-Based Immigrant Visas).

A foreign citizen wishing to live permanently in the United States must apply for an Immigrant Visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Once obtained, the visa allows travel to a U.S. port of entry or border crossing. On admission to the U.S., the foreign citizen will become a permanent resident. They will subsequently be issued what is known as a Green Card.

A Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551 (formerly called an Alien Registration Card) is also known as a "Green Card" (the historic color of the card, although no longer in use). A Green Card holder is someone who has been granted lawful permanent resident status (may live and work) in the United States.

If you're looking for an immigration law firm, contact the knowledgeable team at Michael Iakovou and Associates for all your immigration attorney needs today.