Beware, the DV Green Card Lottery is a “Cinderella Visa"

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Being selected as a “winner” in the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (“DV Program”) lottery (the “DV lottery”) does not mean that the “lottery winner” will be issued a green card.  A selected applicant for the 2017 DV Program (“DV-2017”) must complete immigrant visa processing by September 30, 2017; if not, the ability to obtain an immigrant visa based on winning the DV-2017 lottery is lost forever, much like Cinderella losing the Fairy Godmother’s help at midnight of the royal ball.

Beginning on May 3, 2016 and lasting through September 30, 2017, applicants for the 2017 DV Program (“DV-2017”) are able use the Entrant Status Check with the unique confirmation number saved from their DV-2017 online entry registration to find out whether their entry has been selected in the DV program for the potential to receive one of the approximately 50,000 available Diversity Visas (DVs).  The Entrant Status Check is the sole means of informing applicants of their selection for DV.  Regrettably, the U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) does not notify successful DV applicants or “lottery winners” by letter or email.  The Entrant Status Check will also provide selected applicants with instructions on how to proceed with the application, and notifying them of their appointment for their immigrant visa interview.

Unfortunately, even if an applicant has been selected for DV-2017, many “lottery winners” end up unsuccessful in their quest to attain a green card because of the “lottery within a lottery.”  For example, in June 2015, DOS announced that of the over 91,000 applicants were selected as “lottery winners” for DV-2016, even though only approximately 50,000 DVs were available.  Even the official DV-2017 website warns “lottery winners” regarding the post-diversity lottery-selection process:

“If you receive notification …that you have been selected for further processing … you must successfully complete the steps on the following pages before a consular interview can be scheduled to determine if you will receive a visa. You should complete these steps as soon as possible.”

Below are eight items “lottery winners” should consider before filing a post-lottery, excitement-induced DV immigrant visa application:

  1. “Lottery winners” are required to meet either the education or work experience requirements in order to qualify for a DV. The education requirement is at least a high school education or its equivalent, defined as successful completion of a 12-year course of formal elementary and secondary education.  Only formal courses of study will meet the education requirement; completion of a correspondence program or General Equivalency Diploma (“GED”) will not satisfy this requirement.
  2. The work experience requirement is at least two years of work experience within the past five 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 is used to determine qualifying work experience.
  3. “Lottery winners” are sequentially processed based on their rank serial number.  Those with high winning serial numbers may have as little as sixty days to undergo the rigorous medial, security, financial, and other eligibility screening.  These requirements may significantly increase the level of scrutiny required and time necessary for processing for visa applications of natives of certain countries, including, but not limited to, countries identified as state sponsors of terrorism.
  4. “Lottery winners” at the busy U.S. consular offices abroad appear twice, once for fingerprinting and again several weeks later for the final interview. Delays in the fingerprint check can result in visa unavailability.
  5. “Lottery winners” have until September 30, 2017 (the end of the U.S. federal government’s fiscal year) to complete immigrant visa processing at a U.S. consular office (or to complete adjustment of status if already in the U.S.). This is a strict deadline.  Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of State’s policy is that no exceptions to the fiscal year deadline may be made, even in cases of unreasonable delays resulting from the consular process, including fingerprinting and background checks.  Accordingly, every year, hundreds of “lottery winners” are stranded because they are unable to make it to the finish line by September 30 of the fiscal year.
  6. Almost 80% of DV Program “lottery winners” for DV-2013 (77.8%), DV-2014 (79.4%), and DV-2015 (79.9%) that actually obtain green cards came from European or African countries.
  7. DOS mandates strict compliance with technical rules and regulations. The strict enforcement of the requirements for entering the correct date of birth, or the correct spelling of names, has resulted in many “lottery winners” being disqualified. Omissions, such as failing to include a picture of your spouse, or omitting to list children, can cause disqualification.
  8. Because timing is everything for a DV, submitting the correct documentation and expeditiously filing is critical to achieving success. While you may not have needed a lawyer to apply for DV-2017, you could certainly benefit from having an expert help you navigate the path from selection to obtaining a green card.

For additional information on the DVs and how an immigration attorney can assist a DV “lottery winner,” please refer to the following article – Diversity Visa Immigrant Lotteries – Reasons Why Attorney Processing Can Be Helpful”

This post originally appeared on Wolfsdorf Immigration Law Group. Copyright © 2016 Wolfsdorf Connect - All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.


About The Author

Joseph Barnett Joseph Barnett is licensed as an attorney in the State of Illinois and the State of Wisconsin and practices exclusively in immigration and nationality law. Mr. Barnett's practice focuses in the area of EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program and other business immigration matters. Mr. Barnett received his J.D. from Vermont Law School. Mr. Barnett may be contact at jbarnett@wolfsdorf.com

Naveen Rahman Bhora Naveen Rahman Bhora is a Partner in the firm's New York office. Ms. Bhora has been praised by Who's Who Legal: Corporate Immigration for her "terrific" work at the firm. Further, Ms. Bhora was recently included in the 2016 edition of The Best Lawyers in America, and will also appear in the 10th edition of Los Angeles' Best Lawyers.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.