by Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.
Starting October 1, 2015, and until November 3, 2015, applicants from eligible countries can apply for a chance to win a Green Card through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.
The congressionally mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is administered annually by the Department of State. Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for a class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants” from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. For Fiscal Year 2017, 50,000 Diversity Visas (DVs) will be available.
There are no USCIS filing fees to register for the DV program. (*Be weary of potential scams from “notarios” or immigration agents and consultants).
Applicants who are selected to the program (“selectees”) must meet simple, yet strict, eligibility requirements in order to qualify for a diversity visa. Selectees are chosen through a randomized computer drawing, or lottery. Diversity visas are distributed among six geographic area, and no single country may receive more than seven percent (7%) of the available diversity visas per year.
Of note, natives of the following countries are ineligible to apply for the Diversity Visa because more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous five years. However, even if an applicant’s country listed above, he or she may still be able to apply based on the exceptions below.
- China (mainland-born),
- Dominican Republic,
- El Salvador,
- South Korea,
- United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories,and
Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible for the Diversity Visa.
There are two requirements that a Diversity Visa applicant must fulfill in order to be able to apply.
Eligibility Requirement #1
If the applicant is not a native of a qualifying country, there are two circumstances under which he or she may be eligible to apply.
1. Based on Spouse
If the applicant’s derivative spouse was born in an eligible country, the applicant may claim chargeability to that country. Under this circumstance, the applicant will only be issued an immigrant visa if the spouse is also eligible for, and is issued, an immigrant visa. Both spouses must enter the United States together using their Diversity Visa. Also, minor dependent children can be “charged” to a parent’s country of birth.
2. Based on Parents
An applicant may also be “charged” to the country of birth of a parent as long as neither parent was born in, or a resident of, the applicant’s country of birth at the time of the applicant’s birth. Because people are not generally considered residents of a country in which they were not born or legally naturalized, if they were only visiting, studying in the country temporarily, or stationed temporarily for business or professional reasons on behalf of a company or government of a country other than the one in which the applicant was born.
If the applicant claims alternate chargeability through either of the above, he or she must provide an explanation on the E-DV Entry Form.
Listing an incorrect country of eligibility or chargeability (i.e., one to which the applicant cannot establish a valid claim)
may disqualify the entry.
Eligibility Requirement #2
Each applicant must meet the education or work experience requirement.
To do so, the applicant must have either:
1. At least a high school education or its equivalent, defined as successful completion of a 12-year course of formal elementary and secondary education; or
2. Two (2) years of work experience within the past five (5) years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience to perform. The U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net Online database
will be used to determine qualifying work experience.
Risks of Applying
Certain risks come with applying for the Diversity Visa lottery. For example, if an applicant wins the lottery but is ultimately refused a Green Card, the applicant has in effect announced to the US government that he or she is hoping to get a Green Card. This can make it more difficult to obtain short term visas, like visitor or student visas, which require that the applicant assure the US government that he or she intends to return to their home country after the visa expires.
Even entering the lottery and losing is something that the applicant must declare in any later applications for a US visa, and may be taken into account when the officer determines whether it is likely that the applicant will return home on time.
When to Apply
Applications for the DV 2017 program must be submitted electronically online between noon, eastern daylight time (EDT) on Thursday, October 1, 2015 and Tuesday, November 3, 2015. Do not wait until the last week of the registration period to enter, as heavy demand may result in website delays. No late entries or paper entries will be accepted.
The law allows only one entry by or for each person during each registration period. The Department of State uses sophisticated technology to detect multiple entries. Individuals with more than one entry will be disqualified. Starting May 3, 2016, applicants will be able to check the status of their entries online.