The diversity visa lottery program is a drawing that selects random participants from countries with low emigration rates to the United States. It is a monthly drawing which can issue up to 50,000 visas per year. To participate, those who are eligible for a diversity visa must elect to enter the drawing.
Most lottery winners do not live in the United States, but some live in the US as non immigrants. Outside the country, diversity visas are handled through the consulate, but within the US they are processed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Entering the Lottery
One of the most challenging aspects of the diversity lottery is that there is only a limited period of time in which you can enter it, and that time period along with the instructions for entering can change from year to year.
The Department of State will publish the dates during which you can enter each year. Once these are available, you will need to use the diversity lottery website to enter. You are only allowed one entry per person; if you attempt to enter your name more than once you will be disqualified.
Once you have completed your entry, you will see a screen with your name and a confirmation number. Print this or write it down, and do not lose it. The confirmation number is the only way you can track the status of your entry, and if you are selected, you will need that number to schedule an interview.
Am I Eligible?
To be eligible to receive a diversity visa, you must be selected by the Department of State in the lottery. You must also have an immigrant visa immediately available and you must be legally admissible to the United States.
Most people in the lottery are already applying for a visa of one kind or another, and so should have no trouble meeting these requirements. If you are eligible for a green card, you should be eligible for the diversity lottery. If you are already legally in the United States, you are likely eligible for a green card.
Each month the Department of State will list on their Visa Bulletin how many Visas are available that month in every category. For those interested in the lottery, you will want to look under the diversity immigrant category.
Section C of the bulletin indicates what the cutoff will be for the following month. You can use these sites to keep track of how many visas are still available.
Application Process and Supporting Document
The application process for a diversity visa is not terribly different from the process for any other visa. You must first fill out Form I-485, which will ask for you to submit supporting evidence.
This supporting evidence will include two passport-style photos; this means photos in which you are not wearing glasses or a hat, and you are asked not to smile in the picture. There are also size requirements which can be found online.
A copy of your birth certificate is necessary as well. You will then need to fill out Form I-693, which requires medical and vaccination records. If your vaccinations are not up to date, you will need to take care of that prior to submitting the form.
You will also need to submit a copy of your passport page with either the non immigrant visa, admission, or parole stamp depending on which is applicable to you. Form I-94, which is your arrival/departure record, along with certified copies of court records if you have been arrested will also be needed.
A copy of your selection letter from the Department of State must be submitted along with your other materials, as well as a receipt from the Department of State for the diversity visa processing fee. You may need to submit Form I-601, Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, depending on your circumstances.
Once you have submitted all of these, you may still need to pay any applicable fees before your application can be processed. There is no cost to enter the lottery, but there may be processing fees if you are selected.
Navigating the immigration laws can be difficult. Without professional assistance, it is easy to forget deadlines, lose track of important paperwork, or misunderstand what is happening.
Speak to an Experienced Immigration Attorney
Professional legal help can make the process much smoother and easier. At Pride Immigration, we have years of experience in immigration law and our team is ready and willing to help you. Whether you are trying to enter the diversity visa lottery program or you would like help obtaining a different kind of visa, we can assist you.
We are also available to answer any questions you may have about immigration law. We are here to help.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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