Your Guide to the Visa Lottery

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Diversity Visa Lottery: Everything You Need to Know

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program allows people from eligible countries to obtain immigrant visas and live and work in the U.S. permanently. The diversity visa (DV) program seeks to make the U.S. more diverse and open to other cultures, especially those with low immigration rates.

The visa application process for the green card lottery is complex and time-sensitive. This up-to-date guide may help you determine your eligibility and have a good understanding of the process.

If you need further help, attorneys at Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, can help you. We help clients apply for different green card categories and provide legal assistance throughout the process.

What Is the DV Program?

The visa lottery program started in 1990 and is run by the Department of State (DOS). Here’s everything you need to know about it:

  • A list of eligible and ineligible countries is published every year.

  • The program picks entries through random selection.

  • It leaves out countries that have sent many immigrants to the U.S. in the previous five years.

  • Each eligible country has a limit of 7 percent of the total available visas.

  • It gives diversity visas based on a rank order of entries within each applicant’s country. The lower the number of lottery applicants, the higher your rank order.

  • The registration period opens in October or November each year.

  • All entries are submitted online on the Electronic Diversity Visa (E-DV) website.

Must-Know DV Lottery Guidelines

  • There is no fee to enter the diversity lottery program online.

  • You can only do one entry every fiscal year. You will be disqualified from the program if you make more than one entry.

  • You need to print and keep your confirmation page with your name and a unique confirmation number.

  • You can check your status online using your confirmation number starting in May of the following year.

  • Lottery winners receive a letter with more instructions on how to apply for a visa.

  • If you have not been picked, you are allowed to try again the following year.


How to Apply for the Visa Lottery Program Online

You must fill out an online entry form to apply for the visa lottery program on the date set by the DOS. The lottery is only open for about a month, so make sure you prepare in advance.

DV Lottery Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for the diversity visa program, you must:

  • Be a native of an eligible country. If you aren’t, you may be able to claim your spouse’s country of birth.

  • Have a high school education or two years of work experience.

Steps to Submit Your Online Entry Form

Here’s how to submit your online diversity visa entry form:

  • Go to the Electronic Diversity Visa (E-DV) website and click “Begin Entry.”

  • Enter the code on the screen and fill in the online entry form with your personal information.

  • Give information about your spouse and children, if you have any. Include your spouse and all your unmarried children under 21 years old, including formally adopted and stepchildren. Leave out your parents, siblings, and married children.

  • Upload a recent digital photograph of yourself and each family member in your entry. The photograph should meet the given guidelines. Do not upload an old or altered photograph.

  • Review your entry and make sure all the information is correct and complete. Use the “Save” button to save your entry and continue later if you need more time. Use the “Clear” button to erase all the information and start over if you make a mistake.

  • Submit your entry by clicking on the “Submit” button. Print and keep the confirmation screen with your name and a unique confirmation number.

Note that being selected in the lottery doesn’t guarantee that you will receive a visa or visa interview.

What Happens After You Are Selected?

If you have been selected in the DV lottery, you must go through several steps to obtain a visa. You will be required to confirm your qualification and submit Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application. The Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) will review your application and request that you submit the following supporting documents and their translations:

  • Your birth certificate, as well as your spouse’s and children’s

  • Your educational or work certificates

  • A police clearance certificate

  • A medical examination report

You may also need other documents depending on your situation, such as:

  • A marriage certificate or divorce decree

  • A death certificate of a spouse or child

  • An adoption decree or custody order

  • A court record of a name change

  • A military record or discharge paper

  • A travel document or refugee status letter

Afterward, you will be scheduled for an interview at your local U.S. Consulate or Embassy when a visa is available. You will need to bring the original documents with you to the interview. If your application is successful, you will be given a visa packet which you will use to enter the U.S.

How Can an Attorney With Your Visa Lottery Application?

An attorney can help with your diversity visa lottery application in the following ways:

  • Determining your eligibility and qualifications for the visa lottery program

  • Completing and submitting your online entry form correctly and on time

  • Preparing and submitting your visa application and supporting documents

  • Preparing for your interview and medical examination

  • Resolving any issues or problems that may arise during the process

If you’re a DV lottery winner who overstayed your non-immigrant visa, you may be able to apply for the I-601A unlawful presence. This waiver will allow you to remain in the U.S. while you adjust status.

Andrew T. Thomas, Attorney at Law, Can Help You

With thousands of successful immigration cases under our belt, we have what it takes to help you immigrate to the U.S. and secure a brighter future for you and your loved ones.

Contact our immigration attorney in Texas and schedule a free consultation today.


Can You Enter the DV Program if You Are in the U.S.?

Immigrants in the U.S. can participate in the DV lottery to become permanent residents as long as they qualify. If you don’t, there may be other options for you to adjust status. Our adjustment of status checklist may help.