A Complete Guide On The Diversity Visa (Green Card Lottery)

The DV (Diversity Visa) Program was launched in the year 1990 based on the immigration act and is popularly known as the “Green Card Lottery”. The entire program is administered by the U.S. DOS (Department Of State) and is conducted under the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act). The other vital information about this scheme is explained in detail below.

What Is Diversity Visa?

A Diversity Visa/Diversity Immigrant Visa is otherwise known as Green Card Lottery is a well-known lottery program initiated by the government of United States for individuals who desire to receive a U.S. Permanent Resident Card.

The lottery offers 50,000 immigrant visas every year and targets to diversify the population of different immigrants in the U.S. by choosing applicants from various countries. Despite a bulk flow in the applications, only some get selected for the scheme.

Even though many fraudulent programs try to increase their probabilities of winning the lottery, only a few make it. After the misuse of the scheme, multiple attempts have been made since 2005 to end this program. In fact, in 2017, the program received an extensive attention after the death of 8 people in a terrorist attack. The attack was planned and executed by a diversity visa recipient.

Eligibility Criteria For A Diversity Visa

To acquire a Diversity Immigrant Visa, the following need to be established at first:

  • An applicant must be selected by the Department of State’s lottery.
  • An applicant should have his/her immigrant visa available immediately while filing the adjustment application (i.e., Form I-485).
  • An applicant should be permitted inside the United States.

Requirements For A Diversity Visa

  • To enter or qualify for the lottery, an applicant should be born in one of the United States eligible countries list.
  • If selected, an applicant should have completed his/her either high school education or a work experience of 2 years in any occupation that requires a minimum training of 2 years.
  • An applicant should satisfy the basic immigration requirements like submitting the records of criminal background, health records, etc.
  • An applicant’s eligibility is decided by his/her birth country but with 2 exceptions: an applicant can claim his/her spouse's birth country if preferred, or his/her parent's birth country if neither of them was born in the applicant's birth country and didn’t legally live there when he/she was born.
  • An applicant's nationality or the residing country is unrelated to the lottery.

Note: Every year, the DOS announces new rules for the applicants.

Documents Required For A Diversity Visa

Along with Form I-485, the following documents are mandatory to attach:

  • A Form I-485 (Report for Medical Examination and Vaccination Record).
  • A Form I-94 (Arrival or Departure Record).
  • A Form I-601 (Waiver Application for Grounds of Inadmissibility) – only if applicable.
  • A copy of the applicant’s birth certificate.
  • Two recently taken passport-sized photos of the applicant.
  • A copy of the first and last page of the passport.
  • If applicable, a copy of the applicant’s non-immigrant visa.
  • A few copies of certified court records if the applicant was arrested earlier.
  • A copy of the applicant’s letter of selection from the DOS for the Diversity Visa.
  • A copy of the receipt from the DOS, stating that the processing fee has been paid.

Other Considerations

Make a note that the adjustments of status procedure for a diversity visa winner should be complete by September 30 every fiscal year. Therefore, a visa can never be carried forward to the next financial year.

Note: Many fraudsters might send emails stating that you have won a Diversity Visa (or Green Card) lottery. Do not fall for them or respond to any such emails. Also, never do the mistake of sending funds to anyone. Be aware of such scams.

Geographical Distribution

Bear in mind that the visas are distributed within 6 regions, which are:

  • Europe (Cyprus, Turkey, and countries that were formerly in the Soviet Union)
  • Asia
  • Africa
  • Latin America (Central America, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean)
  • Oceania
  • North America (Bahamas and Canada only)

While the dependent zones are treated as a part of the sovereign countries, the disputed regions are allotted as per the U.S. recognition.

Every region that sends over 1/6th of its immigrants to America in the past 5 years is stated as a "high-admission territory" (currently Asia and Latin America). On the other hand, a region that sends less than 1/6th of its immigrants is called a "low-admission territory" (currently Europe, North America, Oceania, and Africa).

All the applicants belonging to the same area are picked randomly but no country can exceed a total diversity visa of 7%. Even though only 50,000 DVs are available per annum, the lottery chooses at least 100,000 applicants because a bigger selection ensures that the entire 50,000 DVs are given every year eventually, as a few applicants might suddenly plan to withdraw or fail the basic immigration requirements. Consequently, a few lottery winners might not even obtain their visas.

Ineligible Countries

Individuals born in a territory, which exceeds the quotation of sending 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the last 5 years are ineligible to obtain a diversity visa. As of the FY DV-2019, the citizens of the countries listed below are ineligible:

  • Brazil
  • Bangladesh
  • Colombia
  • China (who are mainland-born)
  • Canada
  • Dominican Republic
  • Haiti,
  • El Salvador
  • India
  • Mexico
  • Jamaica
  • Pakistan
  • Nigeria
  • Philippines
  • Peru
  • United Kingdom
  • South Korea
  • Vietnam

The Exemptions Of A Diversity Visa

The 50,000 "immigrants" denotes people only who immigrated through the following categories:

  • Family-sponsored
  • Relatives of the U.S. citizens
  • Employment

It doesn’t include categories like NACARA beneficiaries, asylum seekers, refugees, or other diversity immigrants. Considering this, countries like Iraq, Cuba, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Nepal, Iran, Egypt, Ecuador, and Guatemala are ineligible in the 2017’s list. On the other hand, Northern Ireland has a distinctive exemption and so is Hong Kong.

How To Apply For The U.S. Green Card Lottery?

The application process for “Diversity Visa or Green Card Lottery” is only 1 month long per year. Therefore, the chances of correcting the mistakes made while submitting the documents are extremely low.

In fact, an applicant has a higher probability to be disqualified if the forms and other documents are filed incorrectly. It is highly important to not only fill the form properly but also quickly as well. The instructions are given in detail below:

1. Determine The Entry Admission

The Green Card Lottery or Diversity Immigrant Visa is for an individual who desires to become a permanent resident of the United States. However, if he/she wants to stay temporarily in the U.S. – for instance, to visit the relatives, a vacation or business purpose, then the scheme is not applicable.

Instead, he/she might require a temporary nonimmigrant visa, given that the applicant belongs to an eligible country.

2. Check If There Is Any Other Immigrant Visa Category

If an applicant has a sponsor like an employer, a family member, or he/she qualifies for an Immigrant Visa, then possibilities are that he/she might have other visa choices. The information about such visa options is clearly mentioned on the official website of DOS (https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/all-visa-categories.html).

3. Check For The Eligibility Country List

Every year the DOS decides which countries qualify for the program. As said earlier, this is based on the countries that maintained a lower immigration rate to the United States in the last 5 years. However, individuals who do not belong from the list of qualifying countries cannot partake in the lottery program.

There are 3 ways to find out if a person belongs to an eligible/qualifying country:

  • If the person is born in any one of the eligible countries listed by the United States State Department.
  • If the person’s spouse is born in any one of the eligible countries, provided that both are selected for the entry, issued their DVs, and enter the U.S. simultaneously.
  • If the person’s any one of the parents were born in the listed eligible countries, given that neither of them was born there nor were legally residing there during the person’s time of birth.

4. Keep All The Documents Handy

Once an applicant comprehends all the details associated with the lottery program, he/she has to fill an application form. The details entered in it should be accurate and must be affixed with a recently taken photograph.

The form is filled online and as soon as it opens, the applicant will exactly have 60 minutes to finish and submit it. Once done, it cannot be saved, downloaded, or edited. Therefore, it is important to complete it correctly and quickly.

On the other hand, if the application form is not completed within 60 minutes, it has to be started over. The form prompts the following information to be filled:

  • Applicant’s full name – this has to be same as in the passport.
  • Applicant’s date of birth.
  • Applicant’s gender, birth city, and birth country.
  • Applicant’s country through which the eligibility can be claimed.
  • Applicant’s mailing address and e-mail address.
  • Applicant’s residence country.
  • Applicant’s contact number (optional).
  • Applicant’s educational details.
  • Applicant’s marital status. This should include the spouse’s name, date of birth, birthplace, birth country, and gender.
  • Applicant’s children details if any. This should include their names, gender, date of birth, birthplace, birth country, and their marital status.

5. Gather The Photos

During the entry, a recently taken photograph of the applicant, children, and spouse have to be submitted. However, if the applicant’s spouse and children are already permanent U.S. citizens, then their photographs are not required.

6. Validate The Photos

To ensure that the photos are submitted correctly without being rejected, they can be validated with the help of “Photo Validator.”

7. Fill The Application Online

Note that the application cannot be sent by mail. It has to be submitted online via the official lottery website, which is www.dvlottery.state.gov. Once this link is clicked, click the option named “Begin Entry.” Fill the application form accurately and completely within the given time frame. Upload the photos that have been validated. Finally. Click on the submit button.

8. Note The Confirmation Number

As soon as the submit button is clicked, do not close the page until a confirmation message has been received. The message will have a confirmation number, which needs to be printed if possible. Make a note of this confirmation number, as this will be required for further queries and to check for the lottery results.

Note: The results will take a few months and hence, the official lottery website needs to be checked frequently. Even if an applicant has been selected for the lottery program, the state department will not notify about it. However, they send an e-mail to review the application’s Entry Status.

9. Check The Result

An applicant can access the result by visiting the official website (www.dvlottery.state.gov/ESC/) and clicking on the option called Entrant Status. For this, the applicant will need to enter the received confirmation number, family/last name, and birth year. Even if the applicant has not been selected, do not leave it, as there is a later date for another drawing and he/she might be listed.

10. Read The Entrant Status Instructions

If the applicant is selected for the lottery program, he/she will receive special instructions on the further proceedings. Basically, this will be an interview process with the U.S. consulate or embassy.

11. Apply For The Visa Quickly

The program issues 50,000 Green Cards to the chosen applicants. Even though an applicant has been chosen, he/she might not meet the eligibility requirements to obtain the card. That’s one common reason that the state department picks up 1,00,000+ applications.

Therefore, once the application is submitted, the applicant received a rank order for the diversity visa. This number is mentioned in the Visa Bulletin (http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin.html) under the Diversity Immigrant category. If the rank number is high, probabilities that an applicant will be chosen is low.

Finally, the adjustment of the visa status can be changed when the applicant is in the U.S.


News About A Complete Guide On The Diversity Visa (Green Card Lottery)

  • Rise seen in the demand for EB-5 visa

    The number of EB-5 visa which is dubbed as ‘cash for visa’ has seen an increase with the number of such visas issued to Indians touching a record number of 174 from the existing 149. The increase in the demand for EB-5 visa comes at a time when the H-1B rules are being tightened.

    Individuals can apply for lawful permanent residence in the United States for themselves, their spouse and children who are below the age of 21 years, as per the programme. However for doing so, they need to make necessary investments of Rs.6.5 crore and promising to create atleast 10 full time jobs for US workers.

    Till two years back not many people knew about the EB-5 visa programme stated Mark Davies, the chairman and managing attorney of Davies and Associates. He added that as the word spread about the existence of such a programme, the number of applications have also gradually started increasing. It needs to be informed that the EB-5 visa programme has been in existence since the last 30 years.

    16 May 2018

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