What Is the Green Card Lottery?

“The Green Card Lottery”, also known as the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery, is a program that was created by the U.S. Immigration Act of 1990 to offer a random selection of 50,000 permanent resident immigrant visas. A green card is the official identification card that is issued by the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) to foreign nationals who have permanent residency in the United States. Green cards are also known as permanent resident cards or form I-551.

The lottery is administered by the Department of State and is conducted under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This visa program was created to diversify the immigrant population in the United States by selecting applicants from countries with low numbers of immigrants. Since 2017, around 20 million people have applied for the lottery each year. If you are interested in applying for the green card lottery, reach out to an Immigration Attorney for more information and how to submit a DV Lottery application.

Green Card Application Process

Applicants are only allowed to apply once a year and must provide a passport-style digital photograph, and separate and individual photos of their children and spouse. The application must be filled out digitally as they do not accept and mail-in requests or paper entries. To be eligible to obtain a green card through this program, you must have at least a U.S. or home country high school degree or you must have worked at least two years in a job in which two years of training, experience, or education is required.

The registration for the Diversity Visa 2019 green card lottery ran from October 2018 to November 2018 and usually runs during the fall every year. The window during which applications are accepted is pretty small, so it’s recommended to apply earlier rather than wait till the last minute. Winners are usually selected in May and receive their visa during the 2019 fiscal year that runs from October 2018 till September 2019. The entire process from submitting the application to moving to the U.S. can take under two years.

Green Card Lottery Selection & Approval

Once the winners have been selected, they are required to have a consular interview at the U.S. Embassy or Senate that has jurisdiction over where they reside in their own country. Winners must undergo intense vetting which includes a criminal background check and medical examinations. Following the interview, a decision will be made on whether they are approved for the visa.

Once approved, their passport will be stamped with a Diversity Visa that authorizes them to move to the U.S. within a certain time period. Once those selected have their Diversity Visas, they must pay a fee to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and they will then receive their official U.S. Permanent Resident Card (also called a Green Card) within thirty days.

Green Card Lottery Eligibility

A country’s nationals are not eligible if 50,000 or more people have immigrated from that country in the past five years. For 2019, natives of all countries qualify except Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, the United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. Also, people born in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are eligible.

If you are unlawfully in the United States and apply and win the lottery, it’s most likely that you cannot get a green card because you must travel home to get your immigrant visa. If you leave the U.S., you may get the “unlawful presence” bar to returning.

What Are the Benefits of a Green Card?

For immigrants, this can be a life-changing program. This lottery provides an opportunity for professional and high school graduates who might otherwise not be able to obtain an employment-based visa to receive permanent residency in the U.S. However, anyone who meets the requirements can apply. The program enhances the nation’s diversity and brings law-abiding productive residents to the United States. Winners of the DV lottery receive all the benefits associated with permanent resident status to include things like sponsoring of relatives, the ability to live and work in the U.S., the ability to apply for citizenship, and the freedom of movement. Winners of this visa are allowed to bring their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21, regardless of where they were born. They will also receive green cards.

What Makes the Diversity Visa Unique?

This visa is unique because unlike many other visas, it does not require a U.S. sponsor (like an employer or relative). This means an individual is free to apply on their own. The DV lottery also only has one requirement, which makes it much easier for more people to be eligible to apply. The time it takes to receive this visa is much shorter compared to other visas, and some of them can take many years to be approved.

Consult an Immigration Attorney

Navigating the green card lottery alone can be a daunting and confusing process. For more information on the green card lottery system and guidance on how to submit a Diversity Visa lottery application, contact an immigration attorney at Johnson & Masumi P.C. today.

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