By Elizabeth Walder, Esq., Immigration Law Associates, P.C.
The U.S. Congress created the Diversity Visa (DV) lottery program as a way of broadening the U.S. immigrant population by granting permanent residence to aliens of countries with a low rate of immigration to the U.S. Unfortunately, those in high-immigration countries must pursue visas through other channels.
The annual lottery process begins in early October, at the start of the State Department’s fiscal year, and ends the following September. For fiscal year 2013, entries must be filed between noon on Tuesday October 4, 2011 and noon on Saturday November 5, 2011. A total of 50,000 diversity visas will be available for qualified and successful applicants. The DV program is open to some individuals currently in the U.S. as well as those living overseas. Persons with approved immigrant petitions who are currently waiting for their priority dates to become current may wish to enter the lottery, since this application does not conflict with a pending case and may be processed more quickly.
After submitting their lottery entries, applicants may check their status online. An entrant whose number is selected for visa processing must complete the visa application, submit required documents and forms, pay necessary fees, complete a medical examination, and be interviewed by a consular officer at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Applicants in the U.S. may be interviewed by a USCIS officer after applying for adjustment of status to permanent resident. Successful DV entrants must be eligible to receive an immigrant visa or adjustment of status by qualifying based on education, work, and other requirements. The regulations require every DV entrant to have a high school education or its equivalent, or two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years’ training or experience.
Many applicants are unaware that one error on their lottery entry form can lead to disqualification. The digital photograph specifications are very exacting and applications with inacceptable photos will be automatically ejected. Recently, there has been a notable increase in fraudulent emails and letters sent to DV applicants. The scammers typically pose as the U.S. government, telling applicants that they have been selected for a diversity visa and that payment is now required for visa processing. These fraudulent communications – which appear entirely genuine – are an attempt to extract payment from unsuspecting DV applicants.
Each year, Immigration Law Associates provides the expert assistance applicants need to enter the DV program. For a small fee, they offer an initial consultation with an experienced immigration attorney who provides a complete DV assessment, including:
- Eligibility and other considerations for DV applicants, and how the DV aligns with an individual’s overall immigration strategy;
- Preparation and submission of one DV Lottery application, including digital photographs;
- Follow-up consultation for lottery winners and non-winners.
For those who are not personally eligible for the lottery, Immigration Law Associates can prepare and file an entry on behalf of a relative or friend abroad.