The Immigration Act of 1990 was established to diversify the immigrant population of the U.S. by selecting applicants from countries that have low numbers of immigrants and allowing them to apply for permanent residence in the U.S. This program is called the Diversity Immigrant Visa, and due to its mostly random nature, it is also called the green card lottery, or diversity visa lottery (DV lottery).
The program is administered yearly by the Department of State under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and gives out 55,000 diversity visas yearly.
The diversity immigrant visa program is only one way of applying for a US green card and attaining lawful permanent resident status- there are many other ways to achieve immigration to the United States and eventually gaining naturalization, including the family-based immigration visa, student visa, and work visa.
Each program has its immigration and naturalization policies and green card application process with the US department of state. If you want to apply for a green card and eventually become an American citizen, don’t hesitate to contact one of our immigration attorneys at Andres Mejer Law, a New Jersey immigration law firm.
The visa allocation works by first dividing the world into regions: Asia, Africa, Europe (including all countries that were in the Societ Union), North America, South America, and Oceania. Disputed territories are categorized as they are recognized by the U.S. while dependent territories are categorized under their sovereign countries.
These regions are then further classified as either high-admission regions or low-admission regions. High-admissions regions are those that have sent more than ⅙ of the total immigrants to the United States in the last five years and include Latin America and Asia. All other regions are considered low-admission regions.
The diversity immigrant visas are then inverse-proportionally distributed to these countries. This means that the proportion of diversity visas given to low-admission countries is the proportion of immigrants from high-admission countries in the past five years- in the past five years, ~80% of immigrants are from Latin America and Asia, so 80% of diversity visas this year will be given to the other low-admission regions.
Immigrant diversity visas are distributed by region, but not by the countries found in those regions. However, since the goal of the program is to diversify the immigrant population, countries that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants in the last 5 years are automatically ineligible. The list of countries include:
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
- The United Kingdom, except Northern Ireland and its dependent territories.
Exceptions to this rule include NACARA beneficiaries, asylum seekers, and refugees which are why people from Afghanistan, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Nepal, Peru, Ukraine, and Venezuela are exempted despite having sent more than 50,000 immigrants in the last five years.
To apply for the diversity lottery, you must apply under the country you are native to, for the most part, this refers to the country where you were born, not necessarily where you live. If your native country is ineligible, you may also apply under your spouse’s birth country. You can also apply under your parents’ native country if they were born in a different country.
Apart from your native country, you must also be able to prove that you’ll be able to support yourself in the U.S. and won’t be a public charge or a public liability.
While it is not necessary to have a job offer, you must have either a high school diploma (or the equivalent to a 12-year course of elementary and high school education) or a minimum of two year’s experience in a job that requires two years’ worth of training or experience.
How to Register for the Visa Lottery
If you are from an eligible country and meet the other requirements, you can apply for entry during the open registration period. You can only apply once per year; people who try to apply more than once will have all their applications voided and disqualified.
The only non-fraudulent way you could increase your chances of winning is by getting your other family members to apply. If any family member of yours wins, they will get to apply for a green card and petition you along.
All applications are to be submitted to the State Department website with digital photos of yourself and your dependents. You will also have to input your passport information, including the passport number, issuing country, and expiration date.
Once you have completed your registration, you will be given a confirmation number that you can use to check your application status. This number is what you will use to check if you have won the lottery, so be sure to save it.
Applications are held yearly and do not carry over, so if you do not win this year, you should reapply next year to be eligible for next year’s lottery.
This step in the process has no fee, so be wary of scammers that will tell you that there is a processing fee or telling you that you can increase your chances of winning the US immigration lottery program by paying a fee- there is no such thing; these are all scams.
What to Do if You Win the Lottery
If you win the lottery, congratulations! This allows you to apply for permanent residency in the U.S., however, this does not guarantee you a green card immediately. Every year, there are more lottery winners declared than there are green cards available to make sure that the yearly quota is reached even if there are winners who back out or are later discovered to be ineligible.
This means that you must religiously check your application’s status and follow up quickly so that you don’t miss your chance to apply before the supply of green cards runs out.
The next step to take would depend on where you’re applying from. If you’re applying from outside the U.S., the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy will inform you when you should submit your application and documents. If you are living in the U.S., you will be applying for an adjustment of status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
You should also include your documents to prove that you are not inadmissible for reasons that could be on the grounds of being arrested for certain crimes, being suspected as a security risk, and having certain mental and physical illnesses. You should also be able to prove that you won’t be a public charge by having qualifications that will allow you to find a job.
Winning the lottery can be said to be the “easier” part because you don’t have to do much to enlist, even though, of course, the numbers are not in your favor. However, the part after winning can also be said to be the harder part because you have to grind to make sure you don’t lose your chance.
This is why if you win the lottery, you must contact a New Jersey immigration attorney right away. An immigration lawyer will be familiar and have work experience with the diversity visa program and will know how to quickly go about the visa application so that you don’t lose your chance to get a green card.