The United States is the land of opportunity in the eyes of many immigrants. This remains true even as the current administration proposes and enacts laws aimed at curbing it. Every year, around one million people immigrate to the U.S. in hopes of a better job or a better life.

You may purposely come to the U.S. for work. Or you may be a refugee needing to make ends meet. Regardless of your reason for immigrating, you will need one of three types of documentation to work and live in the country legally. Knowing the differences between them can help you determine which one suits you.

Green card

A green card signifies permanent residence. It’s essential if you plan on spending an extended period in the U.S. and gives you the right to work and to apply for a driver’s license and Social Security Card. Even so, a green card does not grant you citizenship. They also require renewal every 10 years.

Employment authorization document

An employment authorization document – also known as a work permit – does not grant you resident status. But it allows you to find work in the U.S. This permit may benefit you if you are a refugee or asylee displaced from your home country. It can help you gain employment while pursuing citizenship or permanent resident status.

Employment-related visa

An employment-related visa is the most limited of the three varieties. Yet it could benefit you if you’re a foreign worker remaining with one company for a set duration. After fulfilling that role, you may not have planned on working for another company or maintaining residence in the U.S. If so, pursuing this visa makes sense.

Immigrating to the U.S. may seem like an exciting prospect. But it can become a legal and technical headache if you don’t know which way to best go about meeting your goals. Working with an immigration attorney can help clarify the steps you need to take to work and live in the country legally.