The green card lottery, or Diversity Visa Program, is an annual lottery system organized by the U.S. Department of State that allows approximately 50,000 people per year to enter the U.S. on a permanent resident visa. These visas are reserved for people who live in countries that have a low rate of immigration to the U.S. This guide will help you understand how to apply for the green card lottery.
Determining Your Eligibility
The green card lottery confers permanent residency only. It is not available to those who wish to visit the U.S. on a temporary basis to study, conduct business, or take a vacation, which require temporary visas or waivers.
If you qualify for another type of visa because you have a sponsor, it may be easier for you to gain admission to the U.S. without entering the random drawing. You can, however, apply for the green card lottery even if you are already registered as an immigrant in another category as long as you meet the lottery’s eligibility requirements. It may therefore be beneficial to apply for both.
Green Card Lottery Qualifications
The countries that qualify for the green card lottery are revised each year based on which ones had a low immigration rate in the previous five years. If you, your spouse, or at least one of your parents was born in an eligible country, and neither of your parents were born in your country or were legal residents at the time of your birth, you may qualify for the lottery. You must also have a high school degree or equivalent and have worked for two of the last five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training to perform. Several factors may make you inadmissible for the lottery, including criminal activity and a history of overstaying your visa.
When applying for the green card lottery, be aware of the scams that uninformed applicants may find. Some applicants receive emails or letters requesting money related to the application; however, the Department of State does not send these communications, and there is no fee for the lottery. It is not recommended to use a consultant or agent other than a licensed attorney to help file the application, and you should be present for the preparation and submission of documents.
Successful applicants will receive their visas two fiscal years into the future. For example, the 2019 Diversity Immigration Visa Program, or DV-2019, accepted applications from October 1, 2017, to November 2, 2017.
When you are ready to submit your application, collect the proper documentation and digital photos for each person included before filling it out, as you will only have 60 minutes to complete it. You will also need the following information:
- Your name as it appears on your passport
- Your birth date
- Your gender
- The city where you were born
- The country in which you were born, as it is known today
- The country you can claim for lottery eligibility
- Your mailing address, including the country you live in today
- Your phone number and email address
- The highest level of education you have obtained
- Your marital status and your spouse’s name, birth date, gender, and city and country of birth
- The name, date of birth, gender, and city and country of birth for all living and unmarried children under age 21, regardless of whether they live with you or intend to come to the U.S. with you. This should include adopted and step children, if any, even if you are no longer married to the child’s parent.
Make sure you receive a confirmation number after completing your application. Print the page, if possible, as you will need this number to check on your lottery results.
You will not be sent a selection notice if your application is chosen. Instead, you may receive a notification that it is now time to access your Entrant Status Check page for more information. Results will not be available for several months, and the lottery website will inform you when you can begin checking for your results. To review your results, you will need your confirmation number, last name, and year of birth. There are several drawings, so continue checking if you are not immediately selected.
Obtaining a Visa
Those selected for the lottery only have until the end of the applicable U.S. fiscal year to apply for a visa. The Entrant Status Check will give you instructions on what to do next, which typically includes an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Apply as quickly as possible, because while there are only 50,000 visas available, the program selects 125,000 people in anticipation of the number of people who either do not meet the requirements for the visa or choose not to apply. All applications are ranked, and if you receive a high number, your application may not be processed in time.
Working With an Immigration Attorney
Speak to the attorneys at Johnson and Masumi for more information about how to apply for the green card lottery and submitting a green card application. The firm’s experienced attorneys can help you prepare your application materials and select the best course of action if you are denied a green card. In addition to green card applications, Johnson and Masumi can assist with student, fiance, and worker visas, deportation cases, and more.