As you know, diversity is a core American value, and in 1990, this diversity visa program was established to encourage immigration to the United States from a wider variety of countries. So today, we’re here to discuss everything you need to know about this diversity visa program. This program is one of the multiple ways for non-citizens to become U.S. permanent residents. The program is a free lottery that people from countries around the world can enter for a chance to apply for green cards and live and work legally in the United States. The lottery winners don’t need family or employment relationships with U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to sponsor them for their green cards.
What is the Diversity Visa Program?
The Diversity Visa Program was established by the Immigration Act of 1990 to make the US population more diverse. Each year nationals of countries with a low rate of immigration to the US get a chance to be considered for a US Green Card.
There are 50,000 non-immigrant visas available for the lottery participants every year. The winners are selected randomly. Any person who is a citizen of a country that has a historically low immigration rate to the US can apply, as long as they meet the requirements set by the US immigration law.
If you want to have a chance to get the US Green Card this way, you need to apply within a specific timeframe. Otherwise, if you miss the deadline, your application will not be taken into consideration and you have to wait until next year. Each candidate can submit only one entry.
Diversity Visa Eligibility
1. Country of Birth
In order to be eligible for the Diversity Visa, you must have been born in a country that sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the United States over the past 5 years. There is some yearly variation in the eligible countries. However, to date, Canada, China, India, Mexico, and the United Kingdom have never make a list, as these countries respectively send many immigrants to the United States.
For the 2024 application period, which opened October 5, 2023, nationals from the following countries are not eligible to apply:
⦁ China (including Hong Kong SAR)
⦁ Dominican Republic
⦁ El Salvador
⦁ South Korea
⦁ United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories
So if you are not born from any of these countries, then you can apply this year.
If your native country is not eligible, there are still two ways you could qualify for the Diversity Visa:
⦁ If your spouse was born in an eligible country, you can apply with your spouse and choose your spouse’s birth country on your application.
⦁ If neither of your parents were legal residents in your own country of birth, you could choose your mother or father’s country of birth.
The second major requirement for Diversity Visa applicants is that you must have at least a high school degree or at least two years of work experience within the past five years in a profession that requires at least two years of training, as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor.
What are the Requirements for the Diversity Visa Program?
To be eligible for entry into the Diversity Visa Program, each candidate must meet the following requirements:
⦁ Be a citizen of a country that has a low immigration rate to the US. If you are not sure if that applies to your home country, you should check the list issued every year by the US Department of State.
⦁ Have one of the following:
⦁ Have high school education, which means that an applicant needs to have completed a formal course of elementary and secondary education comparable to finishing a 12-year course in the US.
⦁ Have two or more years of qualifying work experience
If you enter the lottery and are selected, but do not meet the requirements, you will not be invited to apply for the Green Card.
How to Enter the Diversity Visa Lottery
There is a limited period of time during which applicants can enter the program. Every year, the lottery is open for four to five weeks, and the exact dates vary. To find out what the registration period dates are that year, you need to visit the Department of State website.
To participate in the lottery, you must submit an entry online on the Electronic Diversity Visa (E-DV) website. There, you fill out an online form. Please note that paper forms are not accepted.
During the registration period, you can submit only one entry. If you submit more than one, your entry will be disqualified as the US Department of State has a technology that detects it. Once you submit your entry, you will receive a confirmation number. You must keep it as without it, you will not be able to check the status of your entry and find out whether your submission was selected.
How are successful applicants selected?
Diversity Immigrant Visa applicants are selected randomly from all registered individuals based on visas available for each country. The lottery results are updated on the Electronic Diversity Visa website. By visiting the Entrant Status Check section of the page, you will be able to check whether your submission was selected or not.
Visiting the Electronic Diversity Visa website is the only way to check the lottery outcome. Successful applicants will not be notified by mail or phone. If you have lost your confirmation number, you will not be able to find out whether your entry was selected.
If your entry is successful, you will be directed to a page that will include further instructions on next steps.
What happens when my entry is selected?
If you check the lottery results and find out that you are a winner, you can begin applying for a Green Card. If you are outside of the US, your selected entry does not mean that you can immediately enter the US if you do not have another visa that allows entry. To apply for an immigrant visa and permanently move to the US, you first need to follow the following steps:
⦁ Submit your visa application using the DS Form 260
⦁ Submit supporting documentation
⦁ Schedule and prepare for the visa interview.
⦁ Attend the interview
At the end of the last step of the process, the visa interview, an official will notify you whether your visa application is approved or denied. If your application is successful, you will be given the details about your visa. If your application is denied, the authorities will explain their decision.
What documents do I need to submit if I am selected?
Along with the application form you will need to submit to receive the Green Card, you will need to submit the following supporting documentation:
⦁ A birth certificate issued by the official custodian of birth records in your home country.
⦁ Court and prison records if you have previously been convicted of a crime.
⦁ Military records if you have served in the military forces.
⦁ Police certificates that cover the entire period of your residence in a certain area.
⦁ A photocopy of a valid passport.
Make sure you seek advice from an immigration lawyer when preparing the documents file, as failure to include some of the required documents can delay your application.
How to prepare for the visa interview?
You should properly prepare for your visa interview. Otherwise, your application can be delayed or denied. To make sure you are ready for the interview, you should:
⦁ Check the information on the Electronic Diversity Visa website and note the date, time, and location of your interview.
⦁ Check the interview instructions published by the US Embassy or Consulate where your interview will take place.
⦁ Schedule a medical appointment with a physician and get all the required vaccinations.
⦁ Get two passport-size photographs.
When you come to the interview, you will be required to present the following documents:
⦁ Appointment confirmation that you can download and print from the Entrant Status Check section of the Electronic Diversity Visa website.
⦁ Confirmation showing that you submitted the DS-260 form
⦁ Evidence of required education
⦁ A passport valid for at least six months after your planned entry into the US.
What are the Diversity Visa fees?
While entering the Diversity Visa Program is free, submitting the application to have your immigration status in the US adjusted is not. If your entry is selected and you want to proceed with the process of getting your US Green Card, you will have to pay the Diversity Visa fee of approximately $330. This fee is non-refundable, even if your visa is not issued.
You might also have to pay other fees associated with the application process, for example, fees for scheduling a medical exam or for receiving copies of required documents such as a birth certificate.
Can my family come to the US with me if I win the Diversity Visa Program?
If your entry is selected and you listed your spouse and child(ren), your spouse and all unmarried children younger than 21 years of age will be able to join you. If you are unmarried but in a relationship at the time of receiving the lottery results, you can get married before you submit the DS-260 Form to make your partner eligible for a Green Card. Or if children are born after submission into the lottery, your now born children can be included at the DS-260 stage.
The important thing to remember, however, is that when submitting your entry, you must list all unmarried children under the age of 21. That includes both your children and your spouse’s kids. The failure to do it will lead your dependents from being disqualified from the lottery, and potentially your disqualification. Even if you do not intend to bring your spouse or children to the US, you must include them in the application.
How long does it take to get the Green Card after winning the lottery?
Every year, a significant number of lottery winners end up not moving to the US because they did not complete the visa application in time. That is because lottery winners have to get approval and complete the process of applying to adjust their immigration process or apply for an immigrant visa by September 30 of the fiscal year during which the lottery took place. Diversity Visas cannot be issued to participants of the Program after the end of that fiscal year.
The time you have to wait to receive the Green Card varies, but it usually takes several months to years. That is why you should start your visa application right after finding out that you have won the lottery.
As I promised, here’s some bonus information that you may not know about:
Unfortunately, the Diversity Visa program is sometimes abused by scammers as a way to defraud hopeful immigrants. Here are a couple of tips to avoid common scams related to the Diversity Visa:
⦁ Entering the Diversity Visa lottery is free. Anyone claiming to collect a fee on the Department of State’s behalf is scamming aspiring immigrants.
⦁ The Department of State does not notify winners either by mail or by email; the only way to know if you’ve been selected is to check your application using the Entrant Status Check.
Entering the Diversity Visa lottery is like entering any other lottery—the odds of winning aren’t high—but if you’re lucky, it can be a way to come to the United States even if you don’t have any family or employment contacts. If you’re married to a U.S. citizen, applying for a marriage green card is almost certainly the better option.
I hope you found this video helpful. Subscribe if this content or information helps you in any way, comment below if you want me to talk about something in specific and share this resource because you never know who needs answers to these questions. Additionally, if you have any specific questions about this video as they pertain to your unique circumstances, please schedule a consultation with us at the link below. Or if you’d like us to assist you with your submission, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org . I’ll see you in the next video.