Feeling Lucky? Overview of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

Commonly known as the “diversity lottery”, the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is administered each year by the Department of State under the terms of section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The program is designed to offer permanent resident visas to qualified persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Entries for the current 2005 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program must be submitted electronically during a 60 day registration period between Saturday, November 1, 2003 and Tuesday December 30, 2003. Paper entries will no longer be accepted. The Electronic Diversity Visa Form will be available at http://www.dvlottery.state.gov during the registration period and instructions can currently be found at the Department of State web site. Individual digital photographs of applicants and eligible family members are also now required. The new electronic filing procedure is a significant change in the program and reflects heightened national security concerns.

Summary of Eligibility & Requirements

The INA makes available 50,000 permanent resident visas annually through this program. Applicants are selected at random by computer from all qualified entries. To qualify, an applicant must meet nationality and education or training requirements.

Those not eligible to apply are natives of specific countries with high rates of immigration to the US, including: Canada, China (mainland born- not eligible/ Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan born are eligible), Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, the United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. Exceptions may apply to certain natives of ineligible countries whose spouse or parents were born in eligible countries and who meet other specific requirements for chargeability. An applicant claiming alternate chargeability must document this in his or her application. Those unsure of their eligibility should consult a knowledgeable immigration attorney.

For those who are eligible based on their country of origin, education or training requirements must still be met. An applicant must possess either 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 of training or experience. To determine whether an occupation meet the requirement, the Department of State will now refer to the Department of Labor’s O*Net Online Database, http://www.onetcenter.org.

The Time-line

Successful applicants will be notified by mail between May and July 2004 and provided with further instructions. DV-2005 visas will be issued between October 1, 2004 and September 30, 2005. Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of successful applicants may also apply for visas to accompany or to follow to join, but issuance of visas must occur by September 30, 2005 according to the Department of State. Those successful applicants who are already in the United States may apply to adjust status to permanent resident with the Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services (BCIS) provided that they are otherwise eligible to adjust status. Again, these cases must be completed by September 30, 2005.

Other Concerns

Due to new security clearances and background checks, delays are very likely. It should also be noted that data submitted on the lottery form will be available to government intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Those who are out of status or believe they may be removable should proceed with caution and understand the possible unanticipated consequences of applying. Given the current political climate and increased security measures, it is advisable that applicants with questions regarding eligibility or legal concerns consult with an experienced immigration attorney before or during the process.