Student Visa Vs Green Card | Which Is Better

The question of which is better between a student visa vs green card has been argued for a long time.

Student visas and green cards are both used for international students to study in a foreign country, but these are two different types of visas, so knowing which is best for you can help you make a more informed decision.

There are many differences between a student visa vs green card in terms of their eligibility criteria, duration of stay, work permits, green card renewal, cost, application process, and so on.

Let’s show you those differences and how to make a proper choice.

What Is a Student Visa?

A student visa is a document that allows students to travel to and enter a country for the purposes of studying at an allowed educational institution.

The visa also allows these students to stay in the country while they attend classes, as well as to leave and return on occasion.

They usually issue a student visa based on an application that the student or his or her representative submits to a local embassy or consulate.

There are two types of temporary visas available: F-1 and M-1. The F-1 is for full-time students studying in a college or university, while the M-1 is for less than full-time students, like high school students who take college courses abroad as part of their curriculum. 

Read this article to learn How To Get Student Visa Proof Of Funds In 2022

What Is a Green Card?

Green cards are given to individuals who are living in the U.S. and have been given permission to stay in the country permanently. A green card is actually a permit of residency; it allows you to stay in the U.S., work, go to school, and even receive benefits.

The green card they actually made it of thick paper stock. It has the same dimensions as your typical driver’s license, but it does not come with an ID number or photo on it like a driver’s license does. There is also no information about your address, social security number, or anything else on it except for your name and other identifying information.

When you get a green card, it comes from one of three sources: the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS), the Department of State (DOS), or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Most get their green cards through DHS because they are being sponsored by family members or employers that already live in the U.S. If you are going into the U.S. as a refugee or an asylee, you will receive your card from USCIS instead.

A green card can be obtained mostly in two ways:

Through family sponsorship: If a person has a relative (such as a spouse or parent) who is currently living in the U.S., he or she may be able to apply for permanent residency through that relative’s papers (this process is called “adjustment of status”).

Through employment: Many companies hire foreign workers to fill vacant positions, which gives these workers access to green cards; it’s also possible for such workers to apply for green cards on their own.

Also Check Out: How to Get Student Visa Sponsorship | Step-by-Step Procedures

Is A Student Visa The Same As A Green Card?

A student visa vs green card are two different things. The U.S. government issues the first one, while the latter is a document that gives you permanent residence in the country. However, there are some similarities between them.

To apply for a student visa, you need to have been accepted at an accredited college or university and have received a Certificate of Eligibility from the school. This form is a confirmation of your enrollment status and allows you to apply for an F-1 visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country.

Once your application is approved, you will be able to travel to the U.S. on an F-1 visa as a full-time student with no intention of working or staying permanently in America after graduation (unless you qualify for OPT employment authorization).

Once you complete your studies, if you decide to stay in the U.S., then you must file Form I-485 Application to Adjust Status before your F-1 status expires (usually within 90 days of completion). If this form is approved, then you’ll be eligible to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.

On the other hand, you can apply for a green card through different methods like family-based, employment-based, or diversity lottery program. The process for applying for these categories is different from each other and takes several years before being approved or rejected by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

However, if you apply for your green card by taking advantage of the diversity lottery program, it will take only about six months before USCIS process and approve your application since there are fewer applicants from this category compared to others.

Don’t Fail to Read: How to Write a Student Visa Sponsorship Letter | 2022 Tips

Can A Student Visa Turn Into A Green Card?

The short answer is yes, despite the differences between student vs green card, but there are some conditions that must be met before this can happen.

You cannot simply turn in your student visa for a green card so you can stay in the U.S. permanently; you have to qualify for one of several categories of nonimmigrant status that allow for permanent residence after meeting certain criteria (such as marrying an American citizen).

If you are not eligible for any of these categories, then there may be another way for you to get a green card.

This is through employment authorization after graduation from school or through family sponsorship by an immediate relative who is either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, i.e., someone who has been granted legal permanent residence status.

For example, if you have an F-1 visa and are studying at an accredited institution full time, then yes, you can apply for an adjustment of status while still in school and receive your green card before graduation day.

Also Check Out: How To Change Your Student Visa To Green card

What Are the Differences Between Student Visa vs Green Card?

Student Visa vs Green Card: The Differences

The biggest difference between student visa vs green card is the length of time they allow you to stay in the destination country.

Unlike student visa, a green card is a permanent resident visa that allows you to live in the U.S. permanently. You can apply for citizenship after five years, but many people apply earlier than that. 

A student visa, on the other hand, allows you to study in the destination country for a limited period of time  usually between one year or less.

There are other differences between student visa vs green card, too:

  • Green cards are more expensive than student visas. Student visas can cost as little as $160, while green cards cost $585 or more (depending on your country of origin).
  • Another difference between student visa vs green card is that green card require an interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy outside of the U.S., while student visas do not require interviews unless there is something unusual about your case or you apply after your current visa expires and you need a new one quickly.
  • If you’re eligible, getting a green card through marriage or employment will be easier than getting one through school; those who qualify must still attend school to get their green card without any breaks in attendance.

Processing Time Between Student Visa vs Green Card

One of the most significant differences between student visa vs green card is processing time. For example, if you are applying for a student visa, it will take around 15 days for your application to be processed.

On the other hand, you can apply for a green card online in just minutes, but it will take months for USCIS to process your application before issuing one to you.

Also Check Out: How To Get a Student Visa In China | Step To Step Procedures

Do International Students Have Green Card?

There are two main ways that international students can get a green card: through their employer or through family sponsorship.

Employment-Based Immigration

If you’re working in the United States on an H1-B visa, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency. This is called “adjustment of status”. It allows you to skip the consular interview requirement that most applicants must go through when applying for their green card at a U.S. consulate abroad.

Family-Based Immigration

This is when someone petitions for another person called the beneficiary who lives outside of the United States. But within the United States’ borders usually because they have family ties here such as parents or siblings. 

The petitioning person must meet certain requirements and must be approved by USCIS before they can begin processing the application.

Can F-1 Students Apply For A Green Card?

Yes. F-1 students are eligible to apply for a green card if they meet the requirements. In order to be eligible, students must have been in F-1 status for at least five years or three years if they were married to a U.S. citizen when they entered the country.

Additionally, they must have completed their course of study. Moreso, have obtained a degree from an accredited U.S. institution of higher education.

They can also apply with an employment offer in a field related to their field of study or be able to demonstrate that they will be able to subsidise themselves without having to rely on public assistance while they wait for their green card application process to complete.

However, it can take up to two years for the application process to be completed and approved by USCIS (U.S Citizenship & Immigration Services). During this time, your student visa must not expire.

Also Check Out: How to Get a Student Visa in Sweden | Step to Step Procedures

How To Get A Green Card In USA For Students?

If you have been in the US as an F1 student, then you can apply for the green card. The steps to get a green card are as follows:

  1. Apply for a change of status to an H-1B visa if you have a job offer from an employer other than the one that sponsored your visa. You must still be a valid F1 student status.
  2. File Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker with USCIS. This will allow you to become eligible to apply for a green card at the U.S. consulate.
  3. Get your priority date ready by filing Form I-485 Application to register Permanent Residence. Your priority date is the day when your Form I-140 was received by USCIS. Usually the date when it was filed but could be later depending on processing time.
  4. If the American Embassy in your home country rejects your visa application, then wait for one year before applying again; this will reset your priority date back to zero so that you can start over from scratch. This is as long as you meet all other eligibility criteria and requirements for obtaining a green card.

Also Check Out: Tips On How to Apply for Admission and Visa to Study in Canada

F1 Student Visa To Green Card Options

If you’re planning to stay in the United States after graduation, you have two different options:

1. OPT: Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT is good for 12 months and can be extended to 30 months. This allows you to work in the U.S. while you are on an F-1 visa. This is only for practical training related to your studies. As a graduate student, this could include a co-op or internship with a U.S.-based company to gain experience in your field.

2. H-1B Visa

An H-1B visa is available for skilled workers in certain occupations such as science, engineering, and computer programming.

The H-1B visa allows you to stay in the U.S. for up to six years. Renewals are possible every three years provided that you continue working for the same employer and meet other requirements. 

If you have an employer willing to help you get a visa, then this is the best option. The process involves getting a formal job offer from the company and then applying for a work permit from USCIS.

You can apply for your green card based on the employment-based first preference category after they have approved your EAD. There are two ways to get an employer sponsorship:

Direct Hire: Your employer will file an I-140 petition on your behalf with USCIS. You must be currently working for this employer in order to qualify for a direct-hire petition.

Indirect Hire: If there are no open positions at your company, then you can be hired through another company as long as that company has an approved I-140 petition for you.

Learn More on How to Get Student Visa Sponsorship | Step-by-Step Procedures


As you can see, both student visa vs green card provide a path toward U.S. residency and citizenship. Both with their own unique benefits and drawbacks.

When weighing your options, be sure to consider all the pros and cons of each type of visa or residency. Remember, one is not necessarily better than another, it’s just a matter of preference.


One of the main differences between a green card and a student visa is that the green card is permanent. A green card holder can live as long as they don’t commit any crimes or violate immigration laws.

The answer depends on where you live, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you live in Alaska, Arizona, or California, your card is good for 10 years. If you live in Delaware, Florida, or Georgia, it’s good for two years. Every other state gets an eight-year card.

Yes! As long as you have a valid passport from your country of citizenship (or another country). You can travel internationally with your green card and return home without any problems.

You can file for renewal 90 days before your expiration (or 180 days if your paperwork was lost or damaged). If your application doesn’t make it in time keep checking at least once a week until the day comes up.