Besides the non-immigrant visas and the immigrant visas, there is an additional way through which you can visit the US and move there permanently. This is through the Diversity Visa Lottery. The Diversity Visa allows people from countries with low rates of immigration to the US to be randomly selected and get permanent resident status.
This article will go through what the Diversity Visa Program is, its requirements, application procedures, fees, and other details.
What is the Diversity Visa Program?
The Diversity Visa (DV) Program is otherwise known as the Green Card Lottery. The reason for this is that when you apply, you have a random chance of being selected to get a US Green Card, so it is like a lottery.
The DV Program allows people from countries that have not immigrated too much in the US to apply for it. The program is not specific to one continent or country, instead all six geographic regions can apply. The number of DV visas is limited though and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decides how many visas will be given each year. No matter how many visas are given, USCIS cannot give more than 7% of these visas to one specific country but must distribute them equally.
The DV visa allows those who get it to move permanently to the US. If you are given the visa, you are considered a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the US. You can then live in any of the states, find a job, get a driver’s license, and get married or have children in the US. After a certain period of time, you can also apply for a US citizenship.
What are the requirements for the Diversity Visa?
In order to be eligible to apply for the Diversity Visa and move to the US permanently, applicants must fulfill a few requirements. The criteria are as follows:
- You must be from one of the countries allowed to apply for the DV Program. The list of countries can be found here.
- You must be at least 18 years old to apply as the head of household. This means that if you are over 18 years old but have younger children, then you can apply together
- You must have completed high school and have a high school diploma, or
- You must have at least 2 years of work experience in the last 5 years in an occupation which falls into Job Zone 4 or 5 as per the US Department of Labor (DOL) requirements.
If you do not meet these criteria then you cannot apply for the DV Program and if you apply, the Department of State will disqualify you.
How to apply for the Diversity Visa?
Applications for the Diversity Visa are done each year at a specific time of year. This specific time is usually around October or November and is done for the next two years. So if you apply in the 2018 period, you are applying to get the visa and move to the US in the year 2020.
The application procedure for the DV Program is quite straightforward. There is only one online application which asks questions regarding the person’s background and personal information. This includes name, date of birth, marital status, education and employment history, family history, etc.
The Green Card registration application can be found here. When the State Department gives the announcement that they are accepting applications, you must fill it as soon as possible. This application is simple and is also free. This means that if you meet the criteria, then you can simply answer a few questions and provide the information and you will be done.
After you submit the application, you will get a confirmation screen with a unique confirmation number. You must save this number somewhere and not lose it under any circumstances. You will have to use this number to check your status and if selected, to also apply for the DV visa. If you lose this confirmation number, the State Department will not send it to you again, so you will not be able to find out if you were selected or not.
When will I know if I am selected?
If you apply during the application time of October-November, you will find out whether you were selected or not in May of the next year. So, you must wait 6 to 7 months for the State Department to process the applications and post the results.
You must use your confirmation number to check your status in the DV lottery website. If you have lost the number, you will not be able to check whether you have been selected and might miss the chance to immigrate to the US.
What happens if I am selected?
When you check your status, you can see whether you were selected or not. If yes, then you must start your application for the Diversity Lottery Visa. You must not under any circumstances make any arrangements to sell your house, car, resign from your job, or purchase flights in this stage. Being selected in the lottery does not meant that you will get the visa. You must first go through the process of applying for it and then making these arrangements if you get it.
The steps to apply for the Diversity Visa are as follows:
Submit the visa application form
Submit a Form DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa Application online. You can access this form through your confirmation number. You must enter your confirmation number without zeros (if your number for example is 2018AF0000012345, you must enter ‘2018AF12345’). When you submit the form, you will get a confirmation page which you must save for later.
Compile the supporting documents
You must have your supporting documents ready for when your interview is scheduled. All your documents must be in English and you must submit the originals. You must have your documents translated by a licensed translator and must make sure that they are correct. Also, even though the US Embassy will require the original documents, it is a good idea to bring a set of copies too just in case they require them. These documents include the following:
- Original passport
- Two Diversity visa photos per person of you and your family if you are applying together
- Proof of your education and employment records
- Birth certificates of you and your family
- Court, prison, and police records
- Marriage certificates or proof of a divorce
- Military records if you were in the military
- Any additional documents that the US Embassy might require from you
Complete a medical examination
Anyone who is in the process of obtaining a US immigrant visa must go through a thorough medical exam. This includes getting the necessary vaccines and filling the medical forms. These forms must be filled out by a licensed doctor after your check-ups.
Attend the interview
The US Embassy will contact you to schedule the interview. You must attend the interview at the scheduled date and time. At the interview, you must bring these documents:
- Your Appointment Letter that you will get from the Diversity Visa website when you check your status and find that you have been selected
- Your Form DS-260 confirmation letter
- Your passport and photographs
- Your medical examination forms
- Your supporting documents
During the interview, you will be asked several questions by the consular officer and they will determine whether you are fit to receive the DV visa or not. This decision will be made by them when you complete the interview, or you will be notified after a few weeks.
What are the Diversity Visa Fees?
While there are no fees to apply for the Diversity Visa Lottery initially, if you are selected you must pay an application fee. This is the fee for the Diversity Visa processing and is $330. Your visa will not be processed if you do not pay this fee. Additionally, you will incur other fees to get and translate your supporting documents.
What happens after I get the Diversity Visa?
When you get the Diversity Visa stamped on your passport, you can start making arrangements to move to the US. You must purchase your tickets and pay the USCIS fee. The USCIS fee is $220 and you must pay it only after you have received your visa.
When you travel to the US for the first time, the US immigration will go through your documents. You must make sure that you have all necessary documents with you. The US immigration officials have the right to deny you entry into the US if they suspect you are not travelling legally or your documents are incomplete.
After you move to the US, you must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to USCIS. This form costs $1,140 which you must pay. When you pay this form, USCIS will mail your Green Card to your new address after a few weeks.
How to Avoid DV Lottery Scams?
Many people do not know the exact procedure for the diversity visa, scammers try to find ways to take advantage of that. They pose as US government agencies, asking for money or personal information.
There is Only One Way to Apply for the DV Lottery
The US government has a system in place to apply for the DV lottery. There is only one website to apply, the official Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery. The website is https://dvlottery.state.gov/. In October of each year, this website will have a place where people can apply.
After the deadline, the website does not accept any applications anymore. Instead, applicants can use the website to check their application status. Through that website, people will then also know whether they were selected or not.
Now if someone from a random website contacts you to try to convince you that there are other ways to apply, do not believe them. There are many websites claiming to be the official DV application website. But, unless that website is https://dvlottery.state.gov/ then they are trying to scam you.
The DV Lottery Selection is Random
The US government has said time and time again that the DV lottery selection is random. That is why it is a lottery. Each year, from the many applications received, the system selects 55,000 people. Those people then apply for the diversity visa. There is no other way to get selected.
Many websites claim that they can increase your chances of winning if you pay them. They will contact people and tell them that they have a better method. They claim their methods guarantee selection. You only have to pay them a fee and they will help you.
These claims are completely untrue, and you should not believe them or pay them any money. No one can know who will get selected for the diversity visa, even the US government officials. The selection is completely random, so until you see the announcement to check you status, you must wait. If anyone asks you to pay them for better chances of winning, report them to the authorities for fraud or ignore them.
Official US Government Websites and Emails End in .gov
The US government has its own set of websites and email addresses. They all end with .gov. There is no US government website or email which ends in .com or .org.
If the websites which you have found are claiming to be the official DV lottery website for applications, look at what the address ends with. If it does not end in .gov, do not follow their advice. If they are claiming that their method will help you get selected and the address ends in .com or .org, they are trying to scam you.
The same is for emails too. Many people receive emails from people with fraudulent information about the DV lottery. Others receive emails about the procedures of the DV lottery. But most often, these scammers send emails telling people that they were selected for the DV lottery. They ask for payment, but their email addresses do not end in .gov.
If you see emails from addresses ending in these letters as below, then they are trying to scam you.
- @dv-state.com, etc.
As you can see, all these email addresses end in .org or .com, not in .gov. This means that the people behind them are scammers and you should not believe anything they say. In fact, it is even better to not open or reply to these emails since they can contain viruses which infect your computer.
The US Government Does NOT Ask You for Money Online
It is free to enter the DV lottery initially. There are no fees for applying from the website each year. You can submit only one entry per year between October and November, and you will not have to pay anything.
If you are randomly selected though, there are processing fees for your application. You will have to pay those fees if you want to get the visa. Currently, the fees are $330 per person.
You will have to pay those fees though only before you have the visa interview. The US Embassy will schedule your visa interview, and right before you go in, you will pay the $330 in person. You will pay by card or by cash. The US Embassy will not ask you to pay these fees online under any circumstances.
So when you see that you have received an email asking you to pay fees for the diversity visa, do NOT send them money. These scammers will usually say they are from the US State Department and will ask you to wire them money through Western Union. The sums vary, but they will usually ask for more than $800.
You must not respond to these emails or try to send them money. They will steal from you and never respond again.
So to protect your assets, you must know that if you are selected for the diversity visa, you will pay the fees at the US Embassy and not online.
The US Government Does NOT Send Emails for the DV Lottery
After applications are submitted during October and November, the US State Department announces the selected winners around May the next year. In past years, they have mailed letters to the winners letting them know that they were selected. Now, anyone who has applied can check their status online on the https://dvlottery.state.gov/ website.
When you apply, you get your application number which you must save. When results are posted you can enter that number and see whether you were selected or not.
The US State Department will not send you an email to tell you whether they selected you or not. You will be responsible to check that. So if anyone sends you an email claiming that you got selected, do not believe them.
If You Hire a Lawyer, Ask for Credentials
Many people do not have time to research the rules for the DV lottery or want to consult a professional. That is why they get a lawyer to discuss their eligibility and how to go about applying. But there are many lawyers that say they are specialists in US visas. Before you hire someone and pay them, it is better to ask for their credentials.
You should ask to see their license since lawyers cannot practice without one. If you suspect something, you can also ask to see their business certificates or diplomas. Do not pay anyone who does not have a practice license since they are most likely scammers trying to profit from people who are applying for visas.
What to Do If You Are a Victim of Fraud?
You might not have known that there are so many ways that scammers can trick you into paying them. They might pose as governmental agencies or visa experts promising you a Green Card to the US, which you might have been hoping to get. This led to you falling in their trap and becoming a victim of fraud. There is not much you can do to track your money back since these scammers are skilled and know how to hide themselves. But you can report them to the authorities.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hosts a website system for internet fraud. The econsumer.gov website was created by consumer protection agencies from 17 countries. It deals with fraud across many countries and they have better capabilities to track the scammers. You can also contact them through their phone number 1-877-382-4357, or go to ftc.gov/complaint.
Additionally, you can also visit the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) website hosted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), or the US Department of Justice.