The primary difference between a green card and a visa is that the visa is only a temporary pass that lets you enter the United States and remain there for a specific period of time, whereas the green card is a permit that does not only allow you to enter the US, but also lets you stay there for as long as you want. Unlike the visas, green cards do not come with an expiry date.
What are non-immigrant visas?
Non-immigrant visas refer to the different types of visas that are issued to individuals who intend to stay in the United States for a specific period of time, and will leave the country once their job there is done. As far as the definition goes, a non-immigrant visa cannot get you permanent residency. However, there are some loops and channels that you may jump through for obtaining permanent residency through your non-immigrant visa. Some of the examples of non-immigrant visas are business visitor and tourist visas, student visas, work visas and exchange visitors.
What are immigrant visas?
Contrary to what the non-immigrant visas stand for, immigrant visas however, allows an individual to enter the United States as well as gives you the opportunity to stay in the country as a permanent resident. Once you have had an immigrant visa issued in your name, you will be eligible for applying for a green card. However, it is important for you to note that the immigrant visas are hard to obtain compared to the non-immigrant visas and these visas are also petition based. Every immigrant visa needs to be petitioned for by a citizen of the United States. That, however, excludes the winners of Diversity Visa Lottery, asylum immigrants and refugees.
What is permanent residency?
Green card holder or legal permanent residents are different from the visa holders in that they are not considered as immigrants. Since they have gained permanent residency through the green card, they cannot be subjected to any sort of time limit for staying in the United States. Green cards do not expire unless the green card holder has violated the terms and conditions or is found guilty of committing a crime in the immigration court. The green card is often treated as a visa that can never expire unless the holder has been convicted for committing a felony or is found guilty at the immigration court.
What are the rights and responsibilities?
A visa holder is not allowed to work in the United States unless he/she is on a specific type of work visa. The green card holder, on the other hand, has the liberty to work in any industry or occupation. The green card holders are given all the rights that the citizens get. However, they do not get the right to vote, serve on juries, or receive federal funding for college expenses.