Diversity Visa Lottery: “Winning” A Green Card

The Diversity Visa Lottery allows individuals from around the world to enter the United States and obtain lawful permanent resident status (also known as a green card). Depending upon where you are from and a few other criteria, you may be eligible to immigrate to the United States.

Eligibility

  • You must be a native of a “low admission state;” i.e., only certain countries are eligible
  • You must meet the standards for education OR work experience
    • You must have either a high school diploma or its equivalent, OR
    • 2 years of work experience within the last 5 years in an occupation requiring at least 2 years’ training or experience as defined under U.S. immigration law
  • You must be selected as diversity lottery “winner”
  • You must have a current diversity visa lottery number
  • Screening Requirements: If you are selected as a diversity visa recipient, you will have to undergo rigorous screening of your medical, financial, criminal and possibly your political background.

Application Process

If you met the eligibility criteria and wish to apply for a green card through the diversity visa lottery, you must submit an application either on your own or with the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney and ensure that the application is completed fully and accurately. The application is submitted online through the Department of State website. You will need to attach digital photos of yourself, and any other family members that are applying with you. And, unlike many other visa applications, it’s free to apply!

You should bear in mind that there is a new application period every year, usually beginning in early October. When submitting the application, you will get a confirmation number.

After the application has been submitted, you will need to check the State Department Website to find out whether you have won.The only way an applicant knows whether they have been selected as a possible visa recipient is by checking their status online using the confirmation number. The  U.S. Department of State does not notify successful DV applicants or “lottery winners” directly.

The Importance of Follow-Through

Even if you are selected as a lottery winner, that does not mean with certainty that you will get a green card. Even if an applicant has been selected for a diversity visa, many lottery winners do not end up immigrating to the United States because so few DV applicants actually qualify for the visa and subsequently pursue their application.

The government pools from a group of DV applicants well over the 50,000 who will actually receive a visa anticipating this to be the case. Each lottery winner is assigned a serial number.  Those with the lowest serial numbers may have as little as sixty days to undergo the rigorous screening process or they may lose their chance. Lottery winners are required to complete their visa processing by the end of each fiscal year (September 30th). This deadline is strictly enforced.

That is why it is critical for diversity visa applicants to follow up quickly and do everything you can to ensure that you attend the earliest available appointment for their visa interview/s and undergo all the required screening as quickly as possible.

Our office routinely helps applicants ensure that they take every step necessary to secure their entry into the lottery and follow up once they have been selected. Because it is a highly time-sensitive process, you should contact a lawyer if you need any assistance as soon as possible.

How to win the DV Lottery?

The first step is to apply! If you’re from a qualifying country and you meet the other eligibility criteria, you can submit an application, but only one per year. Make sure to reapply every year, as applications do not carry over.

How to increase your chances of winning the DV lottery?

People are always looking for a way to increase their changes of “winning” the diversity visa. Some think that applying more than once might help them, but in fact,  if you apply more than once in the same year, you’ll automatically be disqualified.

One way to increase your odds (if you are married) is for both you and your spouse to apply for a diversity visa. You can do this only if both of you are eligible individually.

Also, there is no limit on how many eligible members of the same family may apply. Children who have met the educational or work experience requirements (which usually requires them to be at least 16 to 18 years old), should also enter the lottery. If they win, they will not be able to bring adult parents to the U.S. immediately, but they will be taking a necessary first step to permit other family members to immigrate to the U.S. down the line.

Beyond that, it is always a good idea to be persistent. Keep applying every year.

Can I include my family in my visa application?

Yes. Your spouse and children may be included on your application. Even if you get married or have a child after applying, your family members will be permitted to immigrate with you so long as the marriage took place before your visa was issued. In order for your children to immigrate with you, they must be unmarried and under 21. But even where family members may not be planning to immigrate the U.S., you should include their information on your application. Otherwise, the government might disqualify you for not telling the truth.

What if my spouse is from an eligible country, but I’m not?

You can claim your spouse’s country of birth for the purpose of winning the lottery, as long as you were married prior to submitting the entry in the lottery. Your spouse must be eligible to receive a visa and accompany you to the US.

What if my child turns 21 while the application is pending?

Your child may still be able to get a diversity visa, based on a law called the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA). Our attorneys can advise you on the best strategy to “preserve” your child’s eligibility so that r child may immigrate with you through the green card lottery process. It is also important to remember that your children must remain unmarried until they have their green card. That means up that until the time that they are in the United States with their legal status, they cannot get married.

What is the diversity visa/DV lottery program?

The diversity visa lottery program is an initiative based in U.S. immigration law to invite immigrants from low-admission countries to live permanently in the U.S. It provides an opportunity for people who otherwise may not have been able to immigrate to move to the U.S. with their immediate relatives.  

When does online registration begin for the DV lottery?

The period for online registration changes annually, but usually it begins in the first week of October.

What countries are eligible for green card lottery?

Low-admission countries currently include all countries EXCEPT 18 countries that have been designated as high-admission places. Countries that are excluded from the diversity visa program include:

Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haití, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, and Vietnam

Keep in mind that every year the list of eligible countries will vary.  Different countries are selected based on which nations sent the fewest numbers of immigrants (relative to the population size) to the US during the past five years.

Who qualifies for diversity visa lottery?

Anyone from a low-admission state with proof that they have completed the equivalent of a high school diploma, or who has worked for at least 2 years within the last 5 years at a job requiring 2 years or more of experience.

How do I know if my employment qualifies me for a diversity visa?

The Department of Labor’s O*Net Online Database is used to determine qualifying work experience. Two years of experience working in an occupations that falls within Job Zone 4 or 5 and are ranked 7.0 or higher in Specific Vocational Preparation will qualify an applicant for a diversity visa.

Job Zone 4 includes occupations for which “considerable preparation” is needed; Job Zone 5 includes occupations for which “extensive preparation” is needed.

How do I know if I have the equivalent of a high school diploma?

A high-school education may also mean successful completion of a formal course of elementary and secondary education which would be comparable to completion of a course in the United States. Please note that completion of a correspondence program or equivalency certificate (such as a G.E.D.) will not satisfy this requirement.

How many people are in the green card lottery?

There are 50,000 available slots for diversity visa immigrants made available every year. But around 100,000 people are approved for a diversity visa annually. The discrepancy occurs because many people do not follow through or do not qualify for the visa as determined through further screening.

How do I know if I won the DV lottery?

After you submit your application online with the Department of State, you will receive a confirmation number. You must check their website, using your confirmation number, to find out whether you have won or not. Usually the time period for checking is between May and September.

What are my chances for winning the Diversity Visa lottery?

Winners of the diversity visa lottery are randomly chosen. The best thing you can do to increase your chance of immigrating to the U.S. through the diversity visa lottery is to always check your status early and often, and to follow up with all instructions promptly if you are selected for a visa. Unfortunately, winning the lottery does not guarantee that you will receive a green card. There are more winners than there are immigrant visas actually available. If you don’t follow up quickly or receive your interview on time, the available visas could run out.

Confused about the Green Card Lottery? Our Los Angeles Immigration Lawyers can help!

Are you interested in pursuing a Diversity Visa and unsure of what steps to take? Or are you just curious about the application process and what the best immigration option for you and your family is? With his extensive experience in complex immigration case, Our Los Angeles immigration lawyers can help you navigate through the green card lottery process. Call us today at 213-262-2000.