Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Program
Each year the United States government, through the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery program, makes available 50,000 green cards to eligible applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the US. Entries are usually accepted in October, with the exact timeframe for submission announced by the Department of State each year in September. Lottery winners are randomly chosen by computer and in May, all applicants are informed if they have been selected or not. What is attractive about the Lottery Program is that it is not necessary to have a job offer from an American company, a relative in the US, special talents, or make an investment in the US. The requirements are minimal, and for millions of individuals around the world, the Lottery represents a unique opportunity to obtain a green card.
What are the Eligibility Requirements?
- Native of a Qualifying Country
DV Lottery applicants must be native of a qualifying country. Every year, the Department of State announces the list of countries from which nationals are not eligible to apply. If the country in which you were born is on the Department of State’s annual list, this generally means you are ineligible to apply. However, there are two other ways you might be able to qualify. If your spouse was born in a country whose natives are eligible, you are allowed to claim your spouse’s country of birth so long as both you and your spouse are listed on the selected entry, are issued visas, and enter the United States at the same time. Alternatively, if you were born in a country whose natives are ineligible, but neither of your parents was born there or resided there at the time of your birth, you may claim native status in one of your parents’ country of birth.
- Education or Work Experience
To qualify under the Lottery requirements, applicants must meet simple but strict education or work experience requirements. You must possess either 1) a high school education or its equivalent, defined as a successful completion of a 12-year course of elementary and secondary education; or 2) two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience to perform. To determine if your occupation qualifies, it is necessary to confirm that the Department of Labor O*Net Online Database defines your occupation as Job Zone 4 or 5 with a Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) range of 7.0 or higher.
What Steps are Involved in the DV Lottery Process?
- How to Enter the DV Lottery
All applications must be submitted electronically using the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form (E-DV Entry Form), which is only accessible at www.dvlottery.state.gov. There is no fee to enter the Lottery. When submitting individual photographs for each family member, it is critical to adhere to the compositional and technical specifications set out in the DV Lottery Registration guide. Your entry must contain the name, date and place of birth and photographs of your spouse and children, even if your spouse or child does not live with you and will not immigrate with you. Failure to list a spouse or child in the application will result in the disqualification of you and your entire family at the time of the visa interview. Each principal applicant is entitled to only one entry per year. The submission of two entries is grounds for disqualification. However, a husband and wife may submit separate entries. After submitting the entry, a confirmation number will be designated. Using this number, it will be necessary to check the Department of State’s website to determine whether your entry was selected.
- Procedures for Obtaining a Visa or Adjusting Status
Being selected in the DV Lottery does not automatically guarantee that you will receive a visa. Lottery winners must meet the admissibility requirements set out in US immigration law (e.g., criminal, medical, security, financial). Each year more Lottery winners are selected to apply for immigrant visas than there are immigrant visas available so it is important that selectees act promptly. If you are selected in the Lottery, you will be required to submit an online immigrant visa application, prepare additional documentation (e.g., obtain original diplomas and police certificates, complete medical exams), attend a visa interview, and pay processing fees. As an alternative, for those in the United States, status may be adjusted to permanent residence when a visa number becomes available (the lower the case number, the more quickly you will be processed). If you are adjusting status in the United States, it is necessary to show that you are in the US legally.
For both visa applicants and those adjusting status, it is necessary to provide documentation proving that you satisfy the work or education requirement. It will also be necessary to prove that you will not become a public charge, i.e., dependent on the US government for support. This can be established by demonstrating considerable assets, a job offer, qualifications for jobs that are in demand, or an affidavit of support.
It is critical to understand that for the Diversity Lottery, the visa or adjustment process must be completed by September 30 (or prior to this date if the 50,000 overall limit or the country specific quota of 3,500 is exhausted). After that date, visas cannot be issued and status cannot be adjusted: in effect, the “winning Lottery ticket” becomes invalid after that date if not “cashed” by then. For example, a situation may arise where a parent in the United States successfully adjusts his status in the US, but his children do not obtain a visa by September 30th. The only alternative is for the parent to file an immigrant petition for the children (which could take several years to be processed, depending on the queue), and/or petition for humanitarian parole.
What are some problems encountered by Diversity Winner Applicants?
The DV Lottery has been embroiled in controversy over the years. There are political reasons — whether the US should be issuing visas to those with limited skills and contacts in the United States — as well as shortcomings in the Department of State’s administration of the program. Our firm has been involved in two class action lawsuits against the Department for its deficient management of the program. Problems which DV applicants continue to experience include:
- Protracted administrative processing (e.g., nationals of Muslim origin, education credential checks, applicants who had previously lived in a third country) causing the deadline to expire before issuance of the visas;
- Overzealous consular officers disqualifying applicants on hyper-technical grounds relating to the submitted photographs: photographs which are not “recent”, not in “focus”; are missing an ear; on non-white backgrounds, while also issuing visas to other applicants whose photographs contain the same “deficiencies”;
- Intermediate companies who assist in submitting DV entries do not disclose the submission confirmation number to applicants and extort money from winning applicants;
- Educational equivalency grounds (the applicant’s education is not the equivalent of a US high school education);
- Work experience grounds (the applicant’s experience does not meet the minimal requirements);
- Public charge grounds (for example, an officer may consider that an applicant’s real estate is not liquid, and so should not count for purposes of proving that the applicant will not be a public charge);
- When a DV applicant marries after being selected (“pop-up marriage”), that applicant can be accused of entering into a sham marriage to facilitate the illegal immigration of his “spouse”. Consular officers often (wrongly) subject these individuals to a permanent bar for alien smuggling, and the spouse to a permanent bar for fraud.
How does White & Associates help?
The experienced professionals at White & Associates have successfully petitioned various embassies on behalf of DV Lottery winners who were unjustly refused visas at the time of their visa interviews or who had their applications delayed for months by consular officers. An unjust refusal can take many forms, such as false accusations of a sham marriage (this issue is particularly acute when the applicants were married after being notified of “winning” the Lottery but before the interview; often, officers will interview the husband and wife separately for a prolonged period of time, seeking inconsistencies in their answers). Sometimes, the officer will accuse an applicant of committing a material misrepresentation in a previous visa application or that the applicant will become a public charge (for example, if he is elderly and in poor health). Applications may be delayed for months because of investigations into education or work credentials; security checks related to an occupation or criminal issues; or in a situation where a person lived in a country other than his home country.
White & Associates can provide legal support at any or all stages of the process: preparing the DV Lottery entry, completing forms after winning the Lottery, preparing for the interview, requesting reconsideration of a denial after the interview, or seeking to expedite a decision in the event of delays. White & Associates also assists with humanitarian parole applications in the event that a family is split up as a result of the expiration of the program. We can also provide consultations on the effect of the filing of a DV Lottery entry on future nonimmigrant visa applications, as well as the potential disadvantages of pursuing a winning Lottery application and age out issues where a child has turned 21 during the pendency of the application.
If you are in need of assistance, please contact us.