Besides the non-immigrant visas and the immigrant visas, there is an additional way through which you can visit the U.S 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 U.S 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 U.S Green Card, so it is like a lottery.
The DV Program allows people from countries that have not immigrated too much in the U.S 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 U.S 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 U.S. If you are given the visa, you are considered a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the U.S. 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 U.S. After a certain period of time, you can also apply for a U.S citizenship.
What are the requirements for the Diversity Visa?
In order to be eligible to apply for the Diversity Visa and move to the U.S 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 U.S Department of Labor (DOL) requirements. Jobs which fall into these zones are those which require considerable or extensive preparation and for an in-depth view of the titles, the DOL has listed them here.
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 U.S in the year 2020. The U.S Department of State posts the periods when people can start applying for the DV Program here.
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 U.S.
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 U.S 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 photographs 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 U.S Embassy might require from you
Complete a medical examination
Anyone who is in the process of obtaining a U.S 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 U.S 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 U.S. 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 U.S for the first time, the U.S immigration will go through your documents. You must make sure that you have all necessary documents with you. The U.S immigration officials have the right to deny you entry into the U.S if they suspect you are not travelling legally or your documents are incomplete.
After you move to the U.S, 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 U.S government agencies, asking for money or personal information.
If you are one of the many applicants for a diversity visa lottery, it is good to know how to avoid scams like these. Keep in mind that there is only one website to apply, the official Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery.