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How Do I Take Part in the Diversity Visa Lottery?

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program allows foreign nationals from select countries to migrate to the United States. The countries selected are often those with low immigration rates in the United States. The program intends to diversify the immigrant population in the country.

This article provides a comprehensive overview of the diversity visa program. It outlines the eligibility criteria, application steps, and what follows after application approval. It also aims to guide diversity visa applicants seeking to go through this immigration opportunity.

What Is the Diversity Visa Program?

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, mandated by the U.S. Congress, makes 50,000 so-called diversity visas (DVs) available yearly for qualified people. Those from countries with low immigration rates to the United States can take part in the DV program. The selection process is a random draw. This is why it's called the "diversity visa lottery." The U.S. government also allows the lottery "winners" to bring their spouses and unmarried children under 21.

To manage the limited number of DVs available yearly, the U.S. Department of State holds an annual "visa lottery." The registration period for the program generally runs for one month in the fall of each fiscal year. The list of countries is subject to change every year, following immigration trends.

Am I Qualified for the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery?

To be eligible to apply for the Diversity Lottery, you must be a nonimmigrant from an eligible country. Or you must be the spouse or child of a foreign national who applied to take part in the program. In some cases, you're eligible if your parent's country of birth is eligible to take part in the program. Besides meeting the country of origin rule, DV applicants must meet one of the following:

  • High school education (or its equivalent) or
  • At least two years of work experience in the past five years in an occupation that requires two or more years of training or experience.

There are strict time guidelines for the electronic submission of Diversity Lottery applications. Often, the State Department gives a two-month window for visa applicants. The format, resolution, size, focus, and position of the person in the photograph must meet specific requirements.

Please meet these exact specifications to avoid the removal of your application from the lottery. Also, remember that you are only allowed to submit one entry for each period. But, people who have already sought a visa under another category can still submit under the Diversity Lottery.

Since the list of countries in the DV program changes yearly, you must check with the State Department website before the annual lottery.

How Do I Enter the Visa Lottery?

The State Department releases diversity visa lottery application procedures annually and requires that all DV applicants file electronically without any application fees. Note that the State Department also publishes detailed program entry instructions every year. The following contains the steps to apply for the DV program.

Step 1: Submission of entry form. The State Department gives a limited period for when you can register for the program every year. You apply online. After you submit the complete entry, you will see a confirmation page that contains your confirmation number and name. You must keep your confirmation number assigned to you to access the online system later.

Step 2: Applicant selection. Every year, the State Department conducts a random sample of DV applicants. The State Department allocates the number of visas based on the demographic immigration data and available visas.

Step 3: Confirmation of selection. The State Department notifies selected applicants only through the E-DV webpage and the entrant status check. Here, the State Department will notify you whether they chose you to move forward for further processing in the DV program. Note that the selection does not guarantee your receipt of a visa. You should still meet all eligibility requirements listed under U.S. immigration laws.

Step 4: Check your qualifications. The DV program asks applicants to either have a high school education or two years of work experience. You can only proceed with your visa application if you meet either criteria.

Step 5: Complete the visa application form. As the principal applicant, you and your family members applying for the program should complete Form DS-260. Here, you will need to fill out detailed information. If your circumstances changed after you filed your application for the DV program, for instance, you got married or had a child, you must add your family member to your application. The State Department asks for documents to prove your relationship with the family member you're adding to your application.

Step 6: Submit supporting documents. You will get instructions on how to submit supporting documents. At this point, the State Department will do screenings and background checks. Note that you have to submit the required supporting documents before they can schedule you for an interview. If you can't get a particular document, you should explain why.

Step 7: Visa interview. You may get an email from the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) telling you you have an interview. The email will instruct you to log in to your Entrant Status Check to determine the location, time, and interview date.

Step 8: Prepare for the interview. Please prepare to avoid denial or delay of your visa application.

Step 9: Attend the interview. Make sure to follow the interview preparation instructions sent to you. The interview is often at the U.S. consulate or U.S. embassy. A consular officer will perform the interview and decide whether you can get the immigrant visa. The U.S. government assesses your eligibility based on the rules under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and other U.S. immigration laws.

Step 10: Visa approval or denial. At the end of your interview, the consular officer will tell you if your visa gets approved or denied. If approved, the officer will take your passport to attach the visa to one of its pages. The consular official will tell you the method and timing for the return of your passport. If you're denied, you will learn why you were ineligible.

Remember that several multiple entries may lead to disqualification. So, submitting a single, accurate application is essential to maintain your chance of getting picked for the DV program.

What Should I Expect if the U.S. Approves Application?

Diversity visa lottery winners get their passports through mail at the address listed on their application. The mail also contains further instructions and information about application fees.

If you get selected in the DV lottery program, your diversity visa will be on a page of your passport. You will also get an immigrant packet with all the documents you should bring to the port of entry. When traveling to the United States, you must show these documents to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

After getting your immigrant visa and before traveling to the U.S., you should pay the immigrant fee to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). But, some particular classes of immigrants are exempt from paying this fee. Included are those entering the U.S. under Hague adoption or Orphan programs, Afghan and Iraqi special immigrants, returning residents, and those with K visas.

When Should I Travel to the United States?

You should arrive in the United States within your visa validity period. The date is on your visa. A diversity visa often has six months of validity starting from the issue date.

When entering the U.S., the principal visa applicant should enter before or simultaneously with the family members they are with. You and your family members should travel before the end date of your visa. Bring the sealed immigration packet and show it at the U.S. port of entry.

Remember that a U.S. visa does not guarantee entry into the country. The Department of Homeland Security CBP officials have the discretion and authority to deny or grant admission into the United States.

If admitted into the country, you will be a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). You can work and live permanently in the United States with this immigrant status.

Legal Help with a Diversity Lottery Application

The journey to migrating to the United States through the green card lottery may feel overwhelming. The U.S. government only issues a certain number of visas every year. There is also some uncertainty about the selection of your green card application. You must also submit all requirements to ensure your application gets the best chance to succeed.

That is why it is best to seek legal advice from an immigration attorney. They can help you understand the intricacies of U.S. Immigration Laws. They can guide you through the application process and in looking at eligible countries, which frequently change. Seeking guidance from an immigration lawyer will also prevent you from falling for scams.

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