The Diversity Visa, also called the DV Lottery, is an immigration program through the U.S. Department of State (DOS) under the Immigration and Nationality Act, offering up to 50,000 immigrant visas to foreign nationals in countries with low migration rates to the United States. The program is considered a lottery, as names of those offered green cards are randomly drawn from the roughly 12 million people worldwide who migrate to the United States.
What Is a Diversity Visa?
The United States was founded by immigrants, and millions throughout the world still travel here each year with hopes of better lives and opportunities for their families. During the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan noticed that most foreign nationals migrating to the United States were traveling from just a few countries. Those migrating from China, Mexico and the Philippines far outnumbered those of the other countries combined.
Concerned about diminishing diversity in the country, Reagan sought a program to preserve the diverse populations that built America and specifically requested the requirements be simple to make visas more appealing and accessible to migrants from lesser represented world regions. The first lottery offered only 5,000 green cards versus today’s more than 50,000.
Do I Qualify for the DV Lottery?
Qualifications for the Diversity Visa are not extensive, and foreign nationals both outside and inside the United States are permitted to apply. The following are the criteria for each.
Persons Outside the United States
To apply for the DV Lottery, you must be a native from a country within six approved geographic regions the DOS determines are underrepresented in the United States. For the 2022 lottery, this includes certain countries in the regions Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, and South and Central America and the Caribbean.
Each year, the DOS also identifies countries that are not eligible for the diversity visa program, classified as those who have had more than 50,000 natives migrate to the United States within the past five years. For the 2022 Lottery, those are: Bangladesh; Brazil; Canada; China, including Hong Kong SAR; Colombia; Dominican Republic; El Salvador; Guatemala; Haiti; Honduras; India; Jamaica; Mexico; Nigeria; Pakistan; Philippines; South Korea; United Kingdom, except Northern Ireland, and its dependent territories; and Vietnam. However, persons born in Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible.
Additionally, you must have the equivalent of a high school diploma or have at least two years’ work experience in a field requiring no less than two years of training or experience, within the past consecutive five years. If selected, you must provide documented proof of education or work experience during the visa interview process. There is no minimum age to apply, but the education or work experience requirement typically disqualifies those under age 18.
Husbands and wives can apply together but do need separate applications and must include each other in each entry. If either spouse is selected for the lottery, the other is automatically accepted, along with their children. However, if the spouse who was selected dies before the process is complete and immigration is permitted, the offer is rescinded, and family members are no longer entitled to green cards.
Persons Living in the United States
For those already residing in the United States under a non-immigrant status, you may apply for the DV Lottery as long as you meet the same qualifications of approved country, education or work experience. Should you “win,” the remainder of the process to obtain your diversity visa differs from those living outside the United States.
Those winning the lottery should immediately apply for an adjustment of status from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), as there are a limited number of Diversity Visas available per month to those already residing in the country.
In order to apply for a status adjustment to a Diversity Visa, you will need to file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status form, along with supporting documents such as the DOS letter confirming your lottery win, copy of your birth certificate and passport, arrival and departure records, and other documentation. It is a good idea to seek the assistance of an experienced immigration lawyer to help you prepare and submit your application and ensure the accuracy of your documents.
How Do I Apply for the Diversity Visa Lottery?
Applying for the Diversity Visa is handled electronically online through the DOS website; no paper applications will be accepted. Only one entry per person is allowed, and the system has been developed to detect if a person submits multiple entries and disqualifies that individual.
Keep in mind there is a specified period for which to apply, and the DOS will not accept late entries. The application website will not be active until the beginning date of the period specified.
Once you have completed your application, the system will generate your own personal confirmation number. It is important that you keep the number, as it is the only way to check the status of your application. If selected, you will also need this number for further instructions and to schedule the visa interview.
Should I Get Help with My Application?
Assistance with your application is not required; however, working with an experienced immigration lawyer is a particularly good idea. According to the DOS, 40 precent of applicants are disqualified each year because of formal errors, such as incorrect spelling or grammar, and deadline errors in their applications. You will not be notified if your application is disqualified.
For this reason and the strict adherence to dates and required information, work with an experienced lawyer to make sure your application for a Diversity Visa is correct and not disqualified.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at MC Law Group, LLC Assist Those Applying for the Diversity Visa Lottery
Applying for a Diversity Visa is not a difficult process but does require excellent attention to detail to avoid being disqualified. The Philadelphia immigration lawyers at MC Law Group, LLC are experienced with helping clients prepare applications and meet appropriate deadlines. Call us at 215-496-0690 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.