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What differentiates a green card from a visa?

In your efforts to become a U.S. citizen, you read about green cards and visas and the part they play in the immigration process. Do you know the difference between the two?

U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Japan defines the green card and visa. By understanding how both work, you have a better idea of which path to citizenship to pursue.

Green card

With a green card, you have a card with your photo identification that signifies you as a lawful permanent U.S. resident. Foreign nationals who currently live in the country may apply for a green card for adjustment of status, and the same applies to those who recently arrived in the country with an immigrant visa. Compared to a visa, a green card offers foreign nationals higher status.


With a visa, you receive a stamp on your passport after visiting a U.S. consulate in your country of origin before coming to the U.S. Visas do not allow for automatic entry into the country, as Customs and Border Protection makes that decision.

With a non-immigrant visa, you may stay in the country for a limited time. If you have an immigrant visa, you may obtain a green card after coming into the country. Most foreign nationals must receive their first visa at their U.S. consulate, but they could qualify for changing their status to a green card or a different visa upon arriving in the U.S.

Get the facts on visas and green cards, so you know where and how to focus your efforts on making a living and building a life you love.