What Is the Diversity Visa Program (Green Card Lottery)?

There are a variety of ways that an immigrant can get a Green Card or permanent residency status in the United States. Most individuals obtain their Green Card by way of a family sponsor or an employer sponsor. However, 50,000 lucky immigrants are also granted permanent residency each year through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program), which is commonly referred to as the “Green Card Lottery.”

The DV Program was created in the Immigration Act of 1996 with the purpose of diversifying U.S. immigration figures, which is why it was named the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. The program opens more opportunities to people from countries that do not have a lot of immigrants coming to the United States. The Green Card Lottery is free and its registration period is typically from October through early November each year.

The Green Card Lottery is managed by the U.S. Department of State (DOS). Most immigrants who win the lottery live in countries outside of the United States when they apply to the program; however, it is also possible to win the lottery while you are living in the United States so long as you are living here under some form of legal status.

Qualifying for the Green Card Lottery

The Green Card Lottery is random so not everyone can win. However, there are also some qualifying criteria that you must meet to be one of the random winners.

First, you must have been born in a country that qualifies for the program. The list of countries that are qualified for inclusion in the Green Card Lottery program can change from year to year and it is available on the U.S. State Department's website. That said, if your mother, father or spouse is from an eligible country you may still be able to apply for the lottery.

Second, you must have a high school diploma or the equivalent, meaning that you must have completed 12 years of schooling, including elementary and secondary education. If you do not have this level of education, you can still qualify as long as you have two years of work experience (during the last five years) in an occupation that requires two or more years of training.

Winning the Lottery

Winners of the Green Card lottery are randomly selected by a computer program. Once an individual has been identified as a lottery winner, then he or she will be able to apply for a United States visa by way of a Form I-485 application. After the application process is successfully completed and the visa is granted, the winner and his or her family members will be able to live, study and work in the United States.

Getting Assistance with DV Program Visa

A long list of documents, forms and records must be included with a Form I-485 Green Card Lottery visa application. These forms and information include passport-style photos of yourself, your birth certificate, and Forms G-325, I-693, I-94 and I-601. Copies of your passport, information about your medical and vaccination history and a wide variety of other information is also needed.

It is vital that visa applications related to the Green Card Lottery be completely free of errors. If errors are identified, then the application could be disqualified. Because of the complexities involved with the visa application process and the risk of disqualification, individuals who win the Green Card Lottery are encouraged to gain the assistance of an immigration lawyer to help them submit their visa paperwork and ensure that no simple errors have been overlooked.

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