In addition to nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, there is another way to visit or permanently reside in the United States. It is the “Diversity Visa Lottery.” The Diversity Visa Program allows people from countries with low immigration rates to the United States to be randomly selected to become permanent residents.
This article explains what the Diversity Visa Program is, its requirements, how to apply, and fees.
What is the Diversity Visa Program?
The Diversity Visa (DV) program is also known as the green card lottery. The reason for this is that it is like a lottery because when you apply, you have a random chance of getting a US green card.
Under the DV program, people from countries that don’t immigrate to the U.S. as often can also apply. The program is not limited to one continent or country; all six geographic regions are eligible to apply. However, the number of DV visas is limited, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines the number of visas issued each year. However, regardless of how many visas are issued, USCIS cannot issue more than 7% of visas to any one country and must do so on an even basis.
A DV visa allows you to reside permanently in the United States. With this visa, you are considered a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States. You can live in any state in the U.S., find a job, get a driver’s license, and marry or have children in the U.S.
What are the requirements for the Diversity Visa?
In order to apply for a diversity visa and become a permanent resident of the United States, an applicant must meet a number of criteria. The criteria are as follows:
- The applicant must be from one of the countries eligible to apply for the DV program. A list of countries can be found here.
- You must be 18 years of age or older to apply as a head of household. This means if you are over 18 and have young children, you can apply together.
- You must have graduated from high school and have a high school diploma, or
- Have at least two years of work experience in the last five years in an occupation that falls within Job Zone 4 or 5 as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
If you do not meet these requirements, you cannot apply to the DV program, and if you do, the Department of State will disqualify you.
How to apply for the Diversity Visa?
The application for a diversity visa is submitted at a specific time each year. This specific time is usually around October or November and can be up to two years in advance. This means that if you apply in 2018, you will be applying for a visa to immigrate to the United States in 2020.
The application process for the DV program is very simple. There is only one online application form that asks questions about the applicant’s background and personal information. This includes your name, date of birth, marital status, educational background, employment history, and family history.
The green card registration application form can be found here. Once the State Department makes an announcement that it is accepting applications, you must complete it as soon as possible. This application form is easy to fill out and is free. That is, if you meet the criteria, all you have to do is answer a few questions and provide some information.
Once you submit your application, you will receive a confirmation screen with a unique confirmation number. You must save this number somewhere and never lose it. This number must also be used to check your status and, if selected, apply for a DV visa. If you lose this confirmation number, the State Department will not resend it to you and you will not know if you have been selected.
When will I know if I am selected?
If you apply during the October/November application period, you will find out if you have been selected in May of the following year. This means you will have to wait six to seven months for the State Department to process your application and publish the results.
To check your status on the DV Lottery website, you must use your confirmation number. If you lose this number, you will not be able to find out if you won and may miss your chance to immigrate to the United States.
What happens if I am selected?
You can check your status to see if you have been selected. If you are selected, you will need to begin the application process for a Diversity Lottery visa. Do not make arrangements to sell your house or car, quit your job, or buy an airline ticket at this stage. Participating in the lottery is not a guarantee that you will receive a visa. Being selected in the lottery does not necessarily mean you will receive a visa.
The procedure for applying for a diversity visa is as follows:
Submit the visa application form
Submit form DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa Application, online. You can access this form using your confirmation number. The confirmation number must be entered without the zeros (for example, if your number is 2018AF0000012345, you would need to enter “2018AF12345”). Once you submit the form, you will see a confirmation page that you should save for later.
Compile the supporting documents
You will need to prepare your supporting documents for the interview date. All documents are in English and must be original. You must have them translated by a licensed translator to ensure they are accurate. The U.S. Embassy will also ask for the original, but you should prepare a copy just in case. These documents include the following
- Original passport
- Two diversity visa photos for you and each member of your family (if you are applying together)
- Proof of your educational and employment history
- Birth certificates for you and your family
- Court, prison, or police records
- Marriage or divorce certificate
- Military records, if you have served in the military
- Any other documents required by the U.S. Embassy
Complete a medical examination
To qualify for a U.S. immigrant visa, you must undergo a thorough medical examination. This includes receiving all required immunizations and completing medical forms. These forms must be completed by a licensed physician after the medical examination.
Attend the interview
The U.S. Embassy will contact you to schedule an interview. You must appear for the interview on the date and time specified. You must bring the following documents to the interview.
- Appointment letter (available on the Diversity Visa website when you confirm your status).
- Confirmation letter on Form DS-260
- Passport and photograph
- Medical certificate
- Supporting Documents
During your interview, the consular officer will ask you several questions to determine if you are an appropriate candidate for a DV visa. This decision will be made by the consular officer at the end of the interview, but you may be notified several weeks later.
What are the Diversity Visa Fees?
There is no fee when you first apply for the Diversity Visa Lottery, but if you are selected, you will have to pay an application fee. This is the cost of processing your diversity visa and is $330. If you do not pay this fee, your visa will not be processed. In addition, there are other fees for obtaining and translating supporting documents.
What happens after I get the Diversity Visa?
Once your Diversity Visa is stamped in your passport, you can begin preparing to immigrate to the United States. You will need to purchase an airline ticket and pay the USCIS fee, which is $220 and must be paid after you receive your visa.
When you first arrive in the U.S., U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will review your documents. They need to make sure you have all the required documents. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has the right to deny you entry into the United States if they believe you are not traveling legally or if your documents are incomplete.
Once you have immigrated to the United States, you must file an I-485 (Application for Registration of Permanent Residence) with the USCIS. This application form costs $1,140 and must be paid by you. Once you have paid for this form, USCIS will mail your green card to your new address within a few weeks.
How to Avoid DV Lottery Scams?
Many people do not know the exact process for diversity visas, and scammers try to take advantage of this. The scammers pose as U.S. government agencies and ask for money or personal information.
There is Only One Way to Apply for the DV Lottery
The U.S. government has a system for participating in the DV lottery. There is only one website to apply, and that is the official Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery. The website is https://dvlottery.state.gov/. Every October, there is a place on this website to apply.
After the deadline, this website will no longer accept applications. Instead, applicants can check their application status on the website. They can also find out if they have been selected.
There are many websites that claim to be the official website for DV applications. However, if this website is not https://dvlottery.state.gov/, they are trying to scam you.
The DV Lottery Selection is Random
The U.S. government has repeatedly said that the DV lottery selection is random. That’s why it’s a lottery. Each year, 55,000 people are selected from a large pool of applicants. And these are the people who apply for the diversity visa. There is no other way to be selected.
There are many sites that claim you can increase your chances of being selected by paying money. There are many sites that claim they can increase your chances of winning if you pay them, they contact people and tell them there is a better way. They say that their method will guarantee you a profit. They say that if you pay them, they will help you.
These claims are completely untrue and you should not believe them or pay them. No one, not even US government officials, knows who will be selected for a diversity visa. The selection process is completely random, so you can only wait until an announcement is made to confirm your status. If you are asked to pay money to increase your chances of winning, either report them to the authorities for fraud or ignore them.
Official U.S Government Websites and Emails End in .gov
The US government has its own website and email address. These all end in .gov. There are no US government websites or emails that end in .com or .org.
If the website you find claims to be the official DV Lotto registration site, look at the end of the address. If it doesn’t end in .gov, don’t follow this advice. Even if it claims that you can win this way, if the address ends in .com or .org, it is a scam.
The same is true for emails. Many people have received emails from people with fraudulent information about the DV Lottery. Some people also receive emails about the DV Lottery process. However, most of the time these scammers send you an email telling you that you have won the DV lottery. They ask for payment, but their email address does not end on .gov.
If you receive an email from an address that ends with the following letters, they are trying to scam you
- @dv-state.com, etc.
As you can see, all of these email addresses end in .org or .com, not .gov. This means that the people using these email addresses are scammers, and you should not believe anything they say. In fact, you should not open or reply to these emails because they may contain viruses that can infect your computer.
The U.S Government Does NOT Ask You for Money Online
There is no initial fee to participate in the DV Lottery. There is no fee if you apply through the website every year; if you apply once a year, between October and November, you do not have to pay.
However, if you are randomly selected, there will be a processing fee for your application. If you wish to obtain a visa, you must pay this fee. Currently, there is a fee of $330 per person.
These fees must be paid prior to your visa interview. The US Embassy will schedule your visa interview and you will pay the $330 directly to them prior to your interview. Payment can be made by card or cash. Under no circumstances will the US Embassy ask you to pay these fees online.
So if you receive an email asking you to pay the diversity visa fee, DO NOT send any money. These scammers usually pose as U.S. State Department employees and ask you to send money via Western Union. The amount varies, but they usually ask for $800 or more.
Do not respond to these emails and do not try to send them money. They will steal the money from you and never respond again.
To protect your assets, you need to know that if you are selected for a diversity visa, you will pay the fee at the U.S. Embassy, not online.
The U.S Government Does NOT Send Emails for the DV Lottery
The U.S. Department of State announces winners around May of the following year, after applications are submitted in October and November. In most years, winners receive a letter informing them that they have been selected. Now, anyone who applies can check their status online at https://dvlottery.state.gov/.
After you register, you will be given a registration number to save. When the results are posted, you can enter that number to see if you have been selected or not.
The U.S. Department of State will not send you an email telling you if you have been selected. It is your responsibility to verify this. So if someone sends you an email claiming you have been selected, do not believe it.
If You Hire a Lawyer, Ask for Credentials
Many people don’t have the time to research the DV lottery rules or want to consult a professional. Therefore, they hire an attorney to discuss their eligibility and the application process. However, there are many attorneys who claim to be experts in US visas. Before you hire and pay someone, you should check their credentials.
Attorneys are not allowed to practice without a license, so you should ask to see their license. If in doubt, you can also ask to see their business credentials or diplomas. If they do not have a license, you should not pay them as it is most likely a scammer trying to profit from the visa applicant.
What to Do If You Are a Victim of Fraud?
You may not have known that there are many ways that scammers can trick you into paying. The scammer may pose as a government agency or Visa expert and promise you the green card for the US that you have always wanted. As a result, you fall into their trap and become a victim of a scam. There is not much you can do to get your money back, because these scammers are clever and know how to hide. However, you can report them to the authorities.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sponsors an Internet scam website system called econsumer.gov, created by consumer protection agencies in 17 countries. It deals with scams from many countries and has extensive features for tracking scammers. You can also contact them at 1-877-382-4357 or ftc.gov/complaint.
In addition, you can visit the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) website, which is sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Justice.