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What is a Diversity Visa? How to Enter the Diversity Visa Lottery for a Green Card

What is a Diversity Visa? How to Enter the Diversity Visa Lottery for a Green Card

What Is the Diversity Visa Lottery?

Based on random selection, the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas (green cards) available per year. The DV Program was created by the Department of State to increase diversity within the country. It gives individuals and their families a chance to attain green cards when they otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity.

History of the Diversity Visa

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 created a preference system for immigration. Those with pre-established family and employment ties to the United States had an easier time entering the country, which helped shape the nation’s ethnic and religious makeup. It wasn’t until the 1986 Immigration Reform Act that 5,000 visas were made available per year to those who were negatively affected by the 1965 motion. This number grew to 15,000 within the next five years.

The United States then created the DV Program in 1990 as part of the Immigration Act to further increase the nation’s diversity. The DV Program increased the total number of visas awarded via lottery to 50,000. No longer would a large portion of immigrants just come from the same major countries. It became the mission the Department of State to help those from smaller countries access green cards. The DV Program is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many people around the world.

What Is a Diversity Green Card?

The Diversity Visa lottery is also known as the green card lottery. Over 95% of those selected can access their green cards through the U.S. Department of State, as they already live within the country.

How Is a Lottery Green Card Different Than a Regular Green Card?

Winning the green card lottery gives you the opportunity to apply for a green card. A green card is a physical card with a green hue that proves an individual has Lawful Permanent Resident status in the United States. You can apply for citizenship after three to five years of holding a green card. Lottery-based green cards are approved much faster than standard ones.

Who Is Eligible for a DV?

Immigrants from Canada, China, India, Mexico, and the United Kingdom are never selected to apply for the Diversity Visa. These countries have too many immigrants legally entering the United States each year via other channels. Only individuals from countries that have less than 50,000 immigrants to the United States per year have the chance to enter the lottery. There are two exceptions to this rule:

  • If your spouse’s country was selected and yours was not, you can apply together under your spouse’s country.
  • If your parents were not born in your birthplace, you can use your parents’ birthplace on the application.

In addition to needing to be from an eligible country, there is also an education/work requirement. You must either have graduated from high school OR, within the past five years, you need to have had two years of work experience in a profession approved by the U.S. Department of Labor.

If you are married to someone with United States citizenship, you can apply for the DV, but there is little benefit to doing so. You can easily apply for a marriage-based green card instead.

If you have a non-spousal green card sponsor, however, it would be wise to apply for the Diversity Visa. They are approved much faster than sibling sponsorships, for example.

Ineligible Countries for 2023

The ineligible countries change every year. For example, Venezuela was eligible from 1995 until 2023. Some other countries that are ineligible in 2023 include:

Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (including Hong Kong SAR), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

How Are Participants and Winners Selected?

The winners are selected at random by a computer program. No country can receive more than seven percent of the pool. Exact dates for selection are uncertain, but they are normally released by May of the following year. Entrants can check their application status on the Diversity Visa webpage. This can only be done if you have saved your confirmation number.

How Can I Apply?

Taking part in the Diversity Visa lottery is a fairly simple process. Most questions can be answered with ease, but there are a few tricky sections to look out for. They are listed below.

  • Country of Birth: Name the country you were born in, as opposed to the country you currently live in. If your country has changed names since you were born, then you should list the country’s current name.
  • Country of Eligibility: Use your country of birth here, unless you are using your spouse’s or parents’ country of origin.
  • Spouse: He or she must be listed even if they don’t live with you and even if they don’t plan to immigrate with you.
  • Children: Regardless of their age, you must list all biological and adopted children. Also list any stepchildren that are still under 21, even if you are no longer with their other parent.

The lottery can be entered every year between the months of October and November.

What Do You Do If You Win?

Act as quickly as possible if you are selected, even if it may be a year or more before you can enter the country.

  1. Your visa must be issued by the end of the fiscal year.
  2. More visas are awarded than are available, and if you wait to act they may run out.

Near the end of July, a numerical ranking will be released that tells you when you should apply for your visa. This will be released on the State Department’s visa bulletin. While the first visas are available on October 1st, they can be submitted for 90 days ahead of time.

If you don’t live in the United States, you should submit Form DS-260 with the National Visa Center to apply for your green card. This will lead to a visa interview and further approval.

If you are in the United States on a temporary basis, you’ll submit Form I-485 to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to apply for your green card.

Once selected, you have to abide by the same rules of any other green card recipient. Certain criminal charges may prevent you from acquiring the visa. Certain medical diseases may also prevent you from entering the country. The safest way to gain passage to the United States with inaccessibilities is by applying with Form I-192.

Steps of the Diversity Visa Program

  1. Submit your entry
  2. Win selection (will not happen for every applicant)
  3. Confirm your qualifications:
    • High school diploma or work experience
    • Valid passport
  4. Submit your immigration visa
    • Fill out Form DS-260
  5. Submit relevant supporting documents:
    • Birth certificate
    • Court and prison records
    • Military records
    • Police certificates
    • Photocopy of a valid passport
  6. Prepare for your interview:
    • Review your entrant status online for the interview location
    • Review the United States Embassy or Consulate interview instructions
  7. Schedule and complete a medical examination
  8. Organize copies/photographs of important documents
  9. Attend the interview with all documents in hand
  10. You will either be approved or denied after the interview

How Can You Avoid Fake DV Lottery Scams?

Scammers have been caught with fraudulent entry points in the DV Program lottery. Remember:

  1. The lottery is a completely free endeavor. Anyone asking for payment to enter is illegitimate.
  2. The Department of State only informs winners via the Entrant Status Check. If you receive information that you have won by postal mail or e-mail, that is also illegitimate.

Repeal of the DV Program

Since its creation, there have been those who have called for the appeal of the DV Program. There have also been a few cases of violence in the United States caused by a very select few past winners. It should be noted that all winners go through background checks, screenings, and interviews before arriving in the United States.

The Covid Effect

Only 3,500 of the 50,000 winners of the Diversity Visa were awarded green cards as of July 2021. Two months later, in September, that number had only doubled. This means the majority of winners are not receiving the benefit of having been selected with the same ease as past winners, which is why the Department of State is facing several class action lawsuits. These cases were filed under both the Biden and Trump administrations. Representatives Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Judy Chu (D-CA) have introduced the Keeping Our Promised Act to protect these winning, but under-served immigrants.

Scott D. Pollock & Associates Can Help You With the Diversity Lottery

Winning the Diversity Visa lottery—like with any lottery—is highly dependent on luck. While contacting an immigration attorney won’t increase your luck, it will increase your chances of moving through the process properly. Immigration attorneys understand all the ins and outs, all the caveats, and the timing of submitting for your green card, should you win the Diversity Visa lottery.

You need an attorney that is skilled, compassionate, and hard-working. All of our attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. have those qualities in abundance. Our firm is based in Chicago, but we have worked nationally to help clients resolve their immigration issues. We have a combined 70 years of experience, making us leaders in the field. We are here to work with you no matter what part of the application process you are currently in. Contact us at 312-444-1940 or visit our website today for more information.

We're looking forward to hearing from you!