Understanding a bit More About American Visas

The differences between a temporary visa and a residence visa (Green Card)


As previously mentioned in our publications, American visas are based on the foreigner's intention of visit to the country, that is, based on the reason for the trip to the United States. The general rule is that the US Government issues a visa to the traveler through an American consulate or embassy. This visa is an authorization to travel to the United States, and not a guarantee that the traveler will cross the border or stay in the country.


It is important to know that American visas are divided into two large groups, also based on the traveler's intention to stay in the USA for a certain period of time, even if long, or for a permanent residence. The American Government classifies them as Temporary Visas or Permanent Residence Visas, the latter giving entitlement to a Green Card. The Green Card is not a visa, but an identification card that is based on an immigration visa.


Temporary visas are classified by letters, originating from the lines of the immigration law that deals with them, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in its session 101 (a) (15). Thus, for example, the “A” visa determined by subparagraph “a)”, deals with ambassadors, diplomats and other foreign public officials visiting the United States. The “B” visa determined by item “b)”, deals with leisure or business tourists, the “F” visa determined by item “f)”, deals with students and their dependents and so on.


Temporary visas have different limitations that can range from the time spent on just one ticket stop in the American airport to travel to a third country, such as being able to study in private or public schools, or even being able to work for a specific employer or for a certain period of time. Due to the vastness of visas, these variations are many and must be analyzed in each case. An example is the tourist visitor who can neither study in private or public schools nor can work. Another one is the student who, as a general rule, cannot work, but in certain conditions, he can obtain a work permit.


Residence visas do not have that many limitations, on the contrary. Through the Green Card, the foreigner can work without general limitations, can study in public schools, be linked to social security, that is, practice the acts of a regular American citizen in daily life. The major differences between the American citizen and the permanent resident are in the resident's limitation of participating in democracy (voting) and the resident's limitation in remaining outside the United States. The permanent resident has no main entry restrictions in the United States, such as foreigners on temporary visas do, but they have limitations on staying abroad, for a consecutive period longer than one year or for a period that demonstrates their intention to not reside in the United States.

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