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Green Card vs. work visa - these are the differences

Do you want to work in the United States? Then you need the right work permit. Learn about the pros and cons of Green Cards and work visas and make the right choice for your new life in the USA.

Can I work in the USA?

You may only work in the USA with work authorization from the US government. It is available in three types:

Each of these documents gives you access to the US labor market and is subject to different requirements, rights, and obligations.


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, unemployment in the United States in 2023 is at an all-time low since 1969! So it's the perfect time to apply for your dream job in the USA!

The differences between Green Cards and work visas

The two most common work permits for the USA are the Green Card, and the US work visa. There are major differences between the two, which affect the length of stay in the US and the choice of your employer and occupation.

What is a Green Card?

The Green Card is a US immigrant visa that gives you an unrestricted right to live and work in the United States.

GreenCard or Permanent Resident Card for the USA

As a holder of a Permanent Resident Card (as the Green Card is officially called), you do not have to worry about the validity periods of your stay permit or a change of employer anymore because Green Card rights are valid for life.

If you have a Green Card, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy life in the USA to the fullest.

Take your chance to win a Green Card! Apply now

What is a US work visa?

Work visas for the US are available in different categories and are subject to strict conditions and validity periods, which vary depending on the type of visa.

For example, anyone working with an E visa for trade or investment, an L visa for transferring employees, or an H-1B visa for academics with job offers in the States is firmly tied to their US employer and the job in question.

What is an EAD?

The US government issues the EAD (Employment Authorization Document) as a separate work permit. You can apply for an EAD if you are currently in the US with a valid residency permit but do not have a work visa or Green Card.

EADs are usually approved for asylum seekers, students, or dependents of individuals who have work authorization for the US (usually in the form of a visa). An EAD is only valid for a limited time and must be renewed regularly.

EAD Employment Authorization Document to work in the USA

An overview of the main differences between the Green Card and the US work visa:

Work permit for the USA Green Card Work visa
Validity Lifetime Between a few months and 6 years
Employer choice Free Only employers who sponsor the appropriate visa
Is a change of employer possible? Yes Only with a new application and sponsorship by the new employer
Job change with the same employer possible? Yes With a new Labor Certification (application by the employer)
Job search No obstacles Severe restrictions, as the appropriate visa is required
Bureaucratic effort Renewal of the Green Card document every 10 years Monitoring visa deadlines and conditions, submitting regular renewal applications, or changing visa categories
More advantages Naturalization in the USA is possible after 3 or 5 years and family members can also receive a Green Card Family members can travel with you to the US and apply for an EAD

Tech layoffs 2022: the risks of US work visas

The danger that comes with a temporary visa tied to an employer suddenly became real for many immigrants in the US in 2022 since, due to major layoffs at tech corporations like Meta and Amazon, 150,000 tech employees lost their jobs.

Most of these terminated employees had less than 60 days to find a new job, or they would face losing their residency permits. As with the COVID-19 Travel Ban, those who entered the country on a Green Card were lucky.

Advantages of the Green Card during layoffs

Permanent residents, unlike work visa holders, enjoy the unrestricted right of residence in the US even after termination. But if the Green Card is so much better than a work visa, why don't all US immigrants have such a Permanent Resident Card? The reason is the high entry requirements for the immigrant visa.

Requirements for a Green Card

To get a Green Card, most people must get sponsorship from a US employer or have a family member in the US willing to sponsor them.

Of course, there are other paths to the Green Card. Still, all but one are suitable only for a small number of immigrants who, for example, have large amounts of money (Green Card by investment) or exceptional skills.

One bright spot for USA fans who are neither highly gifted nor rich is the US government's annual Green Card Lottery. The USA gives away 55,000 US immigrant visas each year to participants worldwide. The eligibility requirements for the Green Card Lottery are surprisingly low, and it only takes a few minutes to fill out the application.

Take your chance to win a Green Card! Apply now

Requirements for a work visa

While you are waiting for your Green Card Lottery win, you can continue applying for a US work visa because, unfortunately, no one can predict when your well-deserved lottery win will come.

While finding a job is much more difficult without a Green Card, US employers continue to seek talented foreign professionals in many fields, such as transportation and logistics or health care.

So the chances of getting a job in the US are not bad even without a Green Card, as long as you meet the requirements for a US work visa:

  • You have a valid job offer from a US employer or are being transferred in-house to a US location.
  • Your future American employer has applied for the appropriate visa for you and (if necessary) obtained the "Labor Certification."
  • You have successfully completed the visa interview at the US embassy or consulate.

Working in the USA without a work visa

If you are traveling to the US as a family member of an expatriate and do not have your own work visa, you may only work with an EAD. The lengthy application process is a major hurdle for many spouses or fiancés of foreign nationals working in the US.Therefore, in 2022, the US government created an exception for spouses of E visa or L visa holders: they only need legal residency status based on the new I-94 immigration form and a specific code (COA code) to legally work in the US during the validity period of their visa.

Note, however, that as an EAD or work visa holder, you may lose your status at any time and have to leave the United States within a short period. Only the Green Card offers you the security of a permanent work and residence permit for the USA.

How to get a Green Card

You can register for the Green Card Lottery online anytime. Unlike the official DV Program website of the US government, registration through The American Dream is possible all year round and is not limited to a few weeks in the fall.

We submit our clients' applications to the US authorities between October and November each year and take the time beforehand to review each Green Card application in detail.

When you enter the Green Card Lottery through The American Dream, you will be in contact with our team of government-licensed immigration consultants. Our advisors will clarify outstanding issues with you and correct errors and gaps in your application, ensuring that you are not disqualified due to mistakes in your Green Card application.

Submit your Green Card application today - chances are high!

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