What's the Difference Between an H-1B Visa and a Green Card?

If you’re trying to get to or stay in the United States, but you’re not a citizen, you’ll need documentation that permits this action. But this document varies for each person. Two of the most common types of legal authority that do this are the H-1B visa and the Green Card. They’re often used in the same context but perform different roles. Understanding the two helps you determine which one is right for you and your family.

Breaking Down the H-1B Visa

There are various reasons why a person would want to enter the United States. One of the most common is to further their employment through a better career offer, which is possible through the H-1B visa for specialty occupations.

This visa gives a foreign worker the right to enter the US and stay while employed under an approved employer for three years, with a possible three-year extension.

The visa only applies to highly skilled workers who meet the requirements to perform a specialty occupation. This includes those with bachelor’s degrees or higher, 12 years of work experience, or a mix of the two areas. Examples of professionals who would be eligible for an H-1B visa include physicians, professors, engineers, those in STEM fields or education, and IT specialists.

Unless you are applying through a cap-exempt employer, your application goes through a lottery system. In this system, 85,000 petitions are chosen annually. However, the USCIS typically receives over 200,000 petitions for the H-1B visa.

Cap-exempt employers include institutions of higher education, certain non-profits, and government workers. Individuals applying for H-1B visas in these areas do not need to go through the lottery or wait for pre-designated dates to enter the US and begin working.

Both cap- and cap-exempt employees must leave the US once the visa’s valid date expires, whether it’s three years or six years.

The Green Card

For those wishing to permanently stay in the United States for marriage, family, or employment, the Green Card is the ultimate goal.

This document gives the holder the right to live and work in the US without an expiration date. It’s possible to obtain a Green Card through employment, marriage, or by relation, lottery, asylum, or as a refugee.

Keep in mind that holding a Green Card does not make you a US citizen or resident. It allows you to work and live in the US, but you can’t vote, and it’s possible to be deported if you are convicted of specific crimes or violations. You can remain a citizen of your home country or apply for US citizenship after five years.

The Key Differences Between the Two Documents

While you’re deciding which path to take for your needs, consider these crucial differences that may sway you in one direction:

●     H-1B visas are only valid if the holder works for the sponsoring employer or has received approval to transfer to another position. An H-1B holder can’t move or change jobs without making a visa adjustment. Green card holders can work for anyone, anywhere in the US, and live wherever they choose within the country or its territories.

●     H-1B visas are non-immigrant, which means they are considered in the US for a temporary time. The maximum an H-1B holder can stay without beginning the Green Card path is six years in three-year allotments. Green Card holders have ten years or longer for their residency status.

●     H-1B holders have specified traveling dates identified on the visa stamp. To enter and leave the US, they must present this stamp, which often restricts how many trips out of the country are allowed. Green Card holders can come and go freely with a valid passport and green card.

●     Both the H-1B visas and Green Card put the holder on a potential path to US citizenship. The H-1B visa is called the “dual intent” document because you’re allowed to apply for a Green Card while in the US under this designation. Once you receive the green card, you may be eligible for US citizenship after a period of time (typically five years).

●     H-1B holders are in the country as “legal aliens,” which does not afford the holder the full rights and privileges received by US citizens and permanent residents. The green card provides the holder with all legal rights and privileges as a US citizen, aside from the right to vote.

These differences could determine which option you wish to apply for. Either way, it can get complicated, and you shouldn’t try to do this alone.

What’s Next?

The H-1B visa is a popular document that hundreds of thousands of foreign workers request annually. Much of this demand is due to the dual-intent aspect, as individuals hope to obtain the final coveted Green Card status.

Whether your goal is to enter the US and return after your job is completed or stay there and possibly become a permanent resident, Visa2US has you covered. 

Let our legal professionals guide you as you take these next all-important steps to your new future. We’re available 24/7 to answer your questions and help you complete the requirements to obtain your H-1B visa and possibly move on to receive a Green Card.

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H-1B Visa

H-1B Visa

H-1B visa is used by businesses and organizations in the United States to employ foreign nationals with the preferred qualifications, knowledge, and expertise in a role.

I-485 Adjustment of Status

I-485 Adjustment of Status

Submit a form I-485 application to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

An applicant must either hold an advanced degree or have an exceptional ability in their field that would substantially benefit the U.S. to be qualified.