Green Card vs H1B Visa Complete Guide: Which One Is Right for You?

7 months ago

Green Card vs H1B Visa Complete Guide: Which One Is Right for You?

In the world of immigration within the United States, two pivotal avenues, namely the Green Card and the H1B Visa, exist, each carrying its own intricate facets and distinctive attributes. These two pathways diverge significantly in terms of permanence and entitlements. The Green Card, an example of enduring affiliation, grants an indomitable route to full-fledged citizenship, replete with its manifold rights and privileges. In stark contrast, the H1B Visa, a temporary arrangement, offers no unambiguous assurance of a route toward citizenship.


Green Card vs H-1B Visa: Introduction

Within the world of immigration prospects in the United States, two principal routes exist: 

  • Green Cards
  • H1B Visa

Green Cards grant foreign nationals the privilege of permanent residence and employment within the United States. Holders of these coveted cards partake in virtually all the privileges and entitlements enjoyed by U.S. citizens, with only the exclusion of electoral franchise and the ability to occupy public office. Furthermore, they possess the opportunity to petition for U.S. citizenship, a prospect realized after a pentacle of Green Card possession.

On the other hand, H1B Visas represent a category of non-immigrant visas, permitting foreign nationals to engage in gainful employment on American soil for a finite duration, commonly spanning three years. These visas are customarily conferred upon individuals boasting specialized proficiencies or expertise not readily accessible within the domestic U.S. labor pool.


Green Card vs H1B Visa: Pros and Cons

  • What are the Pros of having a Green Card?

  • Permanent Residency: Green Card holders have the privilege of permanent residency in the United States, allowing them to live and work in the country indefinitely.
  • Job Flexibility: Green Card holders enjoy the freedom to work for any employer, change jobs, or start their own businesses without the need for sponsorship.
  • Education Opportunities: They have full access to educational opportunities, including financial aid and scholarships, without visa-related restrictions.
  • Path to Citizenship: Green Cards offer a clear and direct path to U.S. citizenship, providing the option to become a U.S. citizen after meeting residency requirements.
  • Family Reunification: Green Card holders can sponsor immediate family members for Green Cards, facilitating family reunification.


  • What are the Cons of having a Green Card?

  • Processing Time: The process of obtaining a Green Card can be lengthy and may involve waiting periods, depending on the category and country of origin.
  • Financial Costs: Green Card applicants often incur various fees, including filing fees, medical examination costs, and legal fees.
  • Conditional Status: Some Green Cards may come with conditions, requiring additional steps to remove those conditions within a specified time frame.


  • What are the Pros of having an H1B Visa?

  • Employment Opportunities: H1B Visa holders can work in the United States in specialty occupations, gaining valuable work experience and career growth.
  • Sponsorship: Employers typically sponsor H1B Visas, which can provide an opportunity to work for reputable U.S. companies.
  • Temporary Status: H1B Visas offer a temporary path to work in the U.S., which can be appealing for individuals not seeking long-term commitment.
  • Path to Green Card: Some H1B Visa holders may transition to Green Card status, opening up permanent residency opportunities.


  • What are the Cons of having an H1B Visa?

  • Limited Duration: H1B Visas have a maximum initial duration of three years, with the potential for extension up to six years, after which the visa holder must leave the U.S. unless they transition to another visa status.
  • Employer Dependency: H1B Visa holders are tied to their sponsoring employer and may face challenges changing jobs, which can affect career flexibility.
  • Visa Caps: The H1B Visa program has annual caps, making it competitive and uncertain whether applicants will secure a visa.
  • No Self-Employment: H1B Visa holders cannot be self-employed or start their own businesses unless they obtain other types of visas or Green Cards.
  • Family Restrictions: Spouses on H4 visas may not have the ability to work unless they meet specific eligibility criteria for employment authorization.


Green Card vs H1B Visa: Eligibility Criteria

  • Eligibility Criteria for a Green Card

  • Family Sponsorship: In the intricate landscape of immigration, family sponsorship stands out as a key path to obtaining a Green Card. American citizens and permanent residents have the remarkable benefit of sponsoring immediate family members, including spouses, children, parents, and siblings. This process forges enduring bonds that transcend borders and time.
  • Employment-Based: Securing a Green Card is subject to one's professional endeavors and qualifications, prioritizing those with exceptional skills, advanced degrees, or specific job offers. The eligibility for lawful Permanent Residency depends on the job category and individual credentials. Emphasis is placed on individuals exhibiting exceptional abilities, higher education, or exclusive employment opportunities.
  • Refugee or Asylee Status: Refugees and asylees who have been in the U.S. for one year can apply for a Green Card.
  • Diversity Visa Lottery: Some countries with low immigration rates to the U.S. are eligible for the Diversity Visa Lottery, which randomly selects individuals to receive Green Cards.
  • Investment: If you're willing to invest a substantial amount in a U.S. business that creates jobs, you may be eligible for an EB-5 immigrant investor visa.
  • Special Programs: Certain special programs, such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Cuban Adjustment Act, offer unique pathways to a Green Card.

For Detailed Explanation ExploreDifferent Categories of Green Cards: Which One is Right for You?


  • Eligibility Criteria for H-1B Visa

  • Job Offer: To qualify for an H-1B Visa, an individual needs a job offer from a U.S. employer. The position offered must require specialized knowledge and skills. This ensures eligibility for the visa.
  • Educational Qualifications: Typically, you need at least a bachelor's degree or its equivalent in a related field to qualify for an H-1B Visa.
  • Labor Condition Application (LCA): Your employer must file an LCA with the Department of Labor, certifying that they will pay you the prevailing wage for the position and meet certain working condition requirements.
  • H-1B Cap: There exists an annual limitation on the issuance of H-1B Visas, with certain applicants, such as those holding advanced degrees from American universities, potentially exempt from this restriction.
  • Specialty Occupation: Your job must fall under the category of a "specialty occupation," which typically requires specialized knowledge and skills.
  • Employer-Employee Relationship: The sponsoring employer must establish a valid employer-employee relationship with you, which means they have control over your work and employment conditions.
  • Duration: H-1B Visas are initially granted for up to three years, with the possibility of extension, usually in one-year increments.

When pursuing an H-1B Visa, your path is not limited to the initial requirements; instead, additional, complex criteria may ensnare you based on your country of origin and visa category. It's crucial to emphasize that both Green Cards and H-1B Visas present intricate eligibility requirements, often perplexing to those unfamiliar with the system. 
Therefore, it is advisable to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to navigate these convoluted eligibility channels and evaluate the numerous avenues available before embarking on your application journey in the realm of immigration law.


Green Card vs H-1B Visa: Application Process

  • Application Process for a Green Card

  • Determine Eligibility: Before applying for a Green Card, you must determine your eligibility based on family sponsorship, employment, refugee/asylee status, diversity visa lottery, investment, or special programs.
  • File Immigrant Petition: The sponsoring family member or employer typically files an immigrant petition on your behalf. This petition establishes your eligibility for a Green Card.
  • Priority Date: Your petition's approval establishes a priority date, which is crucial for tracking your place in the Green Card queue, especially if there's a waiting list for your category.
  • Wait for Visa Bulletin: The U.S. Department of State publishes a Visa Bulletin each month, indicating the current priority dates that are eligible to apply for Green Cards. You can only apply if your priority date is current.
  • Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing: Depending on your circumstances, you can either apply for an adjustment of status if you are in the U.S. or go through consular processing at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
  • Biometrics and Interview: If required, you will need to attend a biometrics appointment and an interview as part of the application process.
  • Medical Examination and Affidavit of Support: You must undergo a medical examination by an approved physician and have a sponsor (usually the petitioner) submit an Affidavit of Support to ensure you won't become a public charge.
  • Wait for Approval: After completing all necessary steps, you'll have to wait for USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) to approve your Green Card application.
  • Receive Green Card: Once approved, you'll receive your Green Card, granting you permanent residency in the United States.


  • Application Process for H-1B Visa

  • Job Offer: Acquiring gainful employment within the United States necessitates the attainment of a job proposition from an American employer inclined to serve as your H-1B Visa sponsor. The said employer shall undertake the responsibility of initiating the visa petition on your behalf.
  • Labor Condition Application (LCA): Before filing the H-1B petition, your employer must obtain a certified LCA from the Department of Labor. This document ensures fair wages and working conditions.
  • Submit Form I-129: Your employer submits Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, to USCIS. This includes all required supporting documents and fees.
  • H1B Cap: In the intricate H-1B application process, if your submission falls under the annual cap, it becomes a contestant in the immigration lottery, where destiny holds the key. Should Fortune favor your case, you will gain the opportunity to advance through the visa application process.
  • USCIS Processing: USCIS will review the petition, and if approved, you'll receive Form I-797, Notice of Approval.
  • Consular Processing or Change of Status: When outside the U.S., obtain an H-1B visa at a U.S. consulate. If in the U.S., pursue H-1B status change with distinct requirements and procedures.
  • Arrival in the U.S.: Upon approval, you can enter the U.S. and begin working for your sponsoring employer in the designated role.
  • Duration and Extensions: H-1B visas are typically granted for up to three years, with the possibility of extensions in one-year increments, up to a maximum of six years.


Green Card vs H1B Visa: Costs and Fees

  • Costs and Fees Attached with Green Card 

  • Immigrant Petition Fee: The cost of filing the immigrant petition (Form I-130 for family-based or Form I-140 for employment-based) varies depending on the category and relationship. As per the data published on the US government website is $535.
  • Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing Fee: If you're applying for a Green Card from within the U.S. through adjustment of status (Form I-485) or through consular processing (DS-260), there are associated fees of $1200, which can also vary.
  • Biometrics Fee: You may need to pay a biometrics fee for fingerprinting and background checks, typically around $85 per applicant.
  • Medical Examination: While not a government fee, you will need to cover the cost of a medical examination by an approved physician, the cost falls within a range of $200 to $500
  • Affidavit of Support Fee: The sponsor (usually the petitioner) may need to pay a $125 fee for filing the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864 or I-864EZ), which is used to ensure that the immigrant will not become a public charge.
  • Legal Fees: Numerous individuals enlist the services of immigration solicitors to facilitate the intricate Green Card application procedure. The legal counsel's fees can fluctuate significantly contingent upon the intricacy inherent within your specific case.


  • Costs and Fees Attached with H-1B Visa

  • Filing Fee (Form I-129): The primary cost associated with the H-1B Visa is the filing fee for Form I-129, ranging from $460 to $2,460, depending on factors like the employer's H-1B cap status. This expense varies significantly based on specific circumstances.
  • Premium Processing (Optional): If you need expedited processing, you can opt for premium processing for an additional fee, typically around $2,500. This guarantees a faster response from USCIS.
  • Attorney Fees: Many employers cover the legal fees associated with filing H-1B petitions, but in some cases, applicants may need to cover these costs themselves, which start from $500 and may go up to $2,500+.
  • Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee: Some employers are required to pay an additional fee to support fraud prevention and detection efforts, typically around $500.
  • Public Law 114-113 Fee (if applicable): Employers with more than 50 employees and more than 50% of their workforce on H-1B or L-1 visas may need to pay an additional fee of $4,000 or $4,500, depending on the circumstances.


Green Card vs H1B Visa: How Long Can You Stay?

  • How Long Can Green Card Holders Stay in the USA?

Those with Green Cards have the benefit of residing and being employed in the United States without limit. The Green Card grants you permanent resident standing, permitting you to remain in the country indefinitely, provided you don't take any actions that would cause its cancellation. Nevertheless, it's vital to remember certain duties as a Green Card holder, like renewing the card each decade and steering clear of prolonged trips outside the country. Extended absences could jeopardize your permanent resident position through abandonment. The privileges come with responsibilities.


  • How Long Can H1B Visa Holders Stay in the USA?

Unlike Green Card holders, H1B visa holders have strict rules governing their stay in America. The H1B is a temporary work visa allowing foreign nationals to be employed by a specific company in a specialized field. H1Bs are typically valid for up to 3 years initially, with the potential for a 3-year extension, capping the total stay at 6 years. Meeting extension criteria is required. Some may qualify for extensions past 6 years if they have pending employment-based Green Card applications. This is known as an "H1B extension based on pending Green Card."

So while Green Card holders enjoy permanent residency, H1B holders have time-limited stays for specific employers, usually 6 years unless they are in the Green Card process. The temporary work visa confers less flexibility than the permanent resident status.

Green Card vs H1B Visa: Job Opportunities

  • Job Opportunities for Green Card Holders

Green Card holders enjoy expansive and adaptable employment opportunities across the United States. Unconstrained by a particular employer or job type, they can seek out a diverse range of positions, freely change jobs, and even launch their own enterprises. With permanent resident status, Green Card holders possess almost identical employment prospects to U.S. citizens. They have the ability to work in any sector, occupation, or location nationwide. This fluidity in job options makes them extremely competitive candidates in the employment marketplace.

Take a LookGreen Card Highest Paid Jobs - 2023


  • Job Opportunities for H1B Visa Holders

Unlike Green Card holders, H1B Visa holders face constraints in their U.S. employment, despite opportunities to work here. Their visa ties them to a specific sponsoring employer and job role. The H1B is employer-specific, meaning the visa holder can only work for the sponsoring company. Switching employers on an H1B is complex, requiring the new employer to file a fresh visa petition. Moreover, H1B holders are subject to an annual cap, so securing a visa hinges on availability and meeting eligibility criteria.

While H1B holders can work in their field of expertise, they encounter limitations in changing jobs, career flexibility, or pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors. Green Card holders enjoy far greater job mobility and options to advance their careers.


Green Card vs H1B Visa: Employment Stability

  • Employment Stability of Individuals with Green Cards

Green Card holders possess vastly superior employment stability compared to H1B Visa holders in the United States. As permanent residents, Green Card holders have unconstrained rights to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely. They can freely change jobs or careers without sponsorship or visa renewals needed by temporary residents. This exceptional career stability and flexibility empowers Green Card holders to take charge of their professional trajectories and make strategic moves to maximize opportunities, giving them advantages over temporary visa holders confined to specific employers.

This stability furnishes a sense of security and enables long-term career planning and progression. Green Card holders can concentrate on professional growth and opportunities without worries about visa restrictions or potential changes in employer sponsorship. The flexibility and permanence of their status grant Green Card holders a distinct advantage in employment stability over H1B holders.


  • Employment Stability of Individuals with H1B Visa

Unlike Green Card holders, H1B Visa holders face constraints on employment stability due to their non-immigrant status being employer-specific. They can only work for the sponsoring employer in the job outlined in the visa petition. Switching jobs involves the complex process of securing a new H1B petition from the prospective employer before starting. This bureaucratic process, which can be time-intensive and uncertain, diminishes employment stability. 

Furthermore, annual H1B caps and lottery systems create uncertainty around visa renewal and extension, contingent on visa availability and immigration policies. The dependence on employer sponsorship and limitations of a temporary visa status undermine the career stability and flexibility afforded to Green Card-holding permanent residents.


Green Card vs H1B Visa: Dependents and Family

  • Family-Related Benefits for Green Card Holders

Green Card holders have more favorable family-related benefits compared to H1B Visa holders. Here are some key points regarding family and dependents for Green Card holders:

  • Spouse and Children: Green Card holders can sponsor immediate family - spouses and unmarried under 21 children - for expedited permanent residency. Once Green Card holders obtain permanent status, they can petition for immediate relatives to immigrate to the U.S. through a streamlined process compared to other categories. This privilege enables Green Card holders to reunite families in establish life in America.
  • Family Reunification: Green Card holders can play a significant role in family reunification by bringing their close family members to the United States as lawful permanent residents.
  • Permanent Family Ties: Green Card holders and their immediate family members can live and work in the U.S. indefinitely, and they do not face the same visa-related limitations or uncertainties that non-immigrant visa holders encounter.


  • Family-Related Benefits for H1B Visa Holders

H1B holders can bring their family to the U.S. but with more limited options than Green Card holders. They can sponsor dependents for temporary H-4 visas, however, H-4 family members cannot work and must renew their visas periodically. This contrasts the stability and privileges granted to immediate relatives of permanent residents, who can work and establish themselves long-term.

  • Spouse and Children: H1B Visa holders have the privilege of bringing their spouses and children under 21 to the United States on H4 dependent visas. Yet, those on H4 visas cannot work in the country, except for certain cases permitted by recent immigration changes.
  • Temporary Status: H1B Visa holders and their dependents temporarily reside in the United States, bound by the visa's validity, typically up to six years with extensions possible. Consequently, when their visa expires without an alternative status, departure from the U.S. becomes imperative.

Interested to KnowTop 10 Countries with the Highest Green Card Job Applications


Green Card vs H1B Visa: Path to Citizenship

  • Path to Citizenship for Green Card Holders

Green Card holders, also known as lawful permanent residents, have a clear and direct path to U.S. citizenship, which is one of the significant benefits of holding a Green Card. Here's how the path to citizenship typically works for Green Card holders:

  • Permanent Residency: To start the journey to U.S. citizenship, individuals first obtain a Green Card through family sponsorship, employment, refugee/asylee status, the Diversity Visa Lottery, or other eligible means.
  • Residency Requirement: Green Card holders must maintain their permanent residency status by residing continuously in the United States. They must also avoid any actions that could lead to the revocation of their Green Card.
  • Naturalization Eligibility: After holding a Green Card for at least five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen), Green Card holders can become eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship through a process called naturalization.
  • Naturalization Process: The naturalization process involves completing an application, passing a citizenship test on U.S. history and government, demonstrating good moral character, and attending an interview. If approved, the individual takes the Oath of Allegiance to become a U.S. citizen.
  • Citizenship Benefits: U.S. citizens have the right to vote in federal elections, hold certain government jobs, and enjoy other privileges that permanent residents do not have.


  • Path to Citizenship for H1B Visa Holders

H1B Visa holders follow a different path to citizenship since their initial visa status is non-immigrant in nature. Here's how the path to citizenship typically works for H1B Visa holders:

  • Change of Status: To become a U.S. citizen, H1B Visa holders typically need to transition to a different immigration status, such as obtaining a Green Card (permanent residency). This often involves employer sponsorship through an employment-based Green Card category.
  • Employment-Based Green Card: H1B Visa holders can seek an employment-based Green Card through their employer, usually under categories like EB-2 or EB-3. This process can be lengthy and competitive, as it involves labor certification and preference categories.
  • Green Card Requirements: Once they obtain a Green Card, they must meet the residency and other eligibility requirements for naturalization as described for Green Card holders above.


Green Card vs H1B Visa: Education Opportunities

  • Education Opportunities for Green Card Holders

Green Card holders, also known as lawful permanent residents, enjoy significant educational opportunities in the United States. Here are some key points regarding education for Green Card holders:

  • Access to U.S. Education: Green Card holders have access to the same educational opportunities as U.S. citizens. They can enroll in public schools, colleges, and universities without any restrictions related to their immigration status.
  • In-State Tuition: Many states offer in-state tuition rates to Green Card holders, making higher education more affordable.
  • Financial Aid: Green Card holders may be eligible for federal financial aid and scholarships, depending on their individual circumstances and the institution's policies.
  • No Visa-Related Constraints: Unlike temporary visa holders, Green Card holders do not face the risk of losing their immigration status due to enrollment in educational institutions. They can pursue education without concerns about visa expiration.
  • Advanced Degrees: Green Card holders have the opportunity to pursue advanced degrees, including master's and doctoral programs, and can work toward their career goals without interruptions related to visa limitations.


  • Education Opportunities for H1B Visa Holders

H1B Visa holders can also access education in the United States, but their educational opportunities come with some considerations:

  • Work and Study: H1B Visa holders are primarily in the United States for employment purposes. While they can pursue part-time or full-time study, they must balance their work commitments with their academic pursuits.
  • Financial Aid and Scholarships: Eligibility for federal financial aid may be limited for H1B Visa holders, and they may need to explore alternative sources of funding, such as scholarships, to support their education.
  • Visa-Related Constraints: H1B Visa holders must maintain their visa status and employment while studying. This can be challenging, especially for those pursuing full-time academic programs.
  • Transition to Green Card: Some H1B Visa holders choose to pursue advanced degrees in the United States with the goal of obtaining an employment-based Green Card, which can offer more flexibility and opportunities for education and career advancement.

Did You KnowTop 10 Universities where the Green Card applicant earned their degree.


Green Card vs H1B Visa: Duration and Renewal

  • Duration and Renewal of Green Card

  • Duration: Green Cards provide permanent residency status in the United States. As such, there is no set expiration date for Green Cards. They grant the holder the right to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely, as long as they continue to meet the conditions of maintaining their permanent residency status.
  • Renewal: While Green Cards do not expire, they need to be renewed or replaced every ten years. The renewal process primarily involves filing Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, to obtain a new Green Card with updated biographic information and security features. Renewal is essential to ensure that the card remains valid for travel and employment verification purposes.
  • Conditions: In some cases, Green Cards may be initially granted with conditions, such as those received through marriage to a U.S. citizen or through entrepreneurship. These conditional Green Cards typically require the holder to file a petition to remove conditions within the 90-day period before the card expires.


  • Duration and Renewal of H1B Visa

  • Duration: H1B Visas are initially granted for a period of up to three years. Extensions are possible, allowing H1B Visa holders to stay in the United States for a maximum of six years.
  • Renewal: H1B Visa holders must seek extensions to continue their employment in the United States beyond the initial three-year period. Extensions are typically granted in one- or three-year increments, depending on the circumstances. The employer is responsible for filing the H1B extension petition on behalf of the employee.
  • Beyond Six Years: In certain circumstances, H1B Visa holders can request extensions beyond the six-year maximum limit if they are in the process of applying for an employment-based Green Card. These extensions are typically granted in one-year increments and are contingent on the progress of the Green Card application.


Both pathways have their respective challenges and benefits. Green Card holders enjoy greater stability, job flexibility, and a straightforward path to U.S. citizenship. H-1B visa holders bring specialized skills to the U.S. economy but face visa limitations and potential uncertainties regarding their stay. Here’s a quick comparison:

Features Green Card H1B Visa
Type Immigrant Visa Non-immigrant Visa
Purpose To live and work permanently in the US To work in a specialty occupation in the US
Duration Permanent, unless revoked 6 years, with the possibility of a 3-year extension
Eligibility There are a variety of ways to qualify for a green card, including through employment, family, or investment Requires a US employer to sponsor your application and a bachelor’s degree in a related field
Benefits Allows you to work and live in the US permanently, travel freely, and apply for citizenship Allows you to work and live in the US for the duration of your visa
Drawbacks Can be a long and complicated process to obtain Tied to your employer, so you cannot change jobs without first obtaining a new visa



  • Can I apply for both a Green Card and an H1B Visa simultaneously?

Yes, you can apply for a Green Card and H1B visa at the same time. However, getting both approved together is difficult.


  • How long does it take to get a Green Card compared to an H1B Visa?

The Green Card process usually takes 1-2 years for employment-based cases. The H1B visa process is faster, with visas awarded in a lottery each April for employment starting in October.


  • Do I need a job offer to apply for a Green Card?

Yes, most Green Card applicants need a permanent job offer from a US employer who is willing to sponsor you. There are some categories that don't require an employer sponsorship.


  • What are the limitations on changing employers with an H1B Visa?

With an H1B visa, you can only work for the employer who sponsored your visa. To change employers, the new employer must file and get approved a new H1B petition for you.


  • Can an H1B Visa holder start a business in the U.S.?

No, H1B visa holders cannot legally start their own business or be self-employed. You must maintain the employer-employee relationship with the H1B sponsor.


  • Is it possible to switch from an H1B Visa to a Green Card?

Yes, if you have an approved I-140 immigrant petition, you can change from H1B to Green Card status within the US through the process called adjustment of status.


  • What happens if my H1B Visa expires before I get a Green Card?

If your H1B expires before you get Green Card approval, you will have to leave the US or switch to another non-immigrant visa to remain in status.


  • Are there any country-specific quotas for Green Cards?

Yes, no more than 7% of employment-based Green Cards can go to nationals of any one country in a year. This impacts backlogs for applicants from India, China, etc.


  • How does the new immigration policy affect Green Card and H1B Visa applicants?

The new immigration policy makes it harder to get H1B visas and Green Cards. There are more requests for evidence and denials. Priority is given to US advanced degree holders for H1Bs.