The USA green card lottery issues up to 55,000 diversity visas per year.
A green card lets you live and work in the USA permanently. For many, it’s also a path to citizenship. To get a green card, some people apply through family, while some go through employment.
If you’re planning on moving to the USA and aren’t eligible for any of the other green cards, have you considered entering the green card lottery?
To learn everything you need to know about the USA green card lottery and how you can apply, keep reading.
What Is the Green Card Lottery?
Otherwise known as the diversity visa lottery, the green card lottery is a way for people to apply to live and work in the US. And since it’s free to apply, it’s one of the cheapest ways to get a US visa.
It is also one of the most straightforward visas, as it doesn’t need as much paperwork like applying for a visa through family does.
The first step in the process is to complete your application and submit it during the application window. Then, a computer selects up to 55,000 recipients for the visa at random.
Once the computer selects the applicants, they go through an interview process. If they pass this screening, they get a green card upon their entry into the US.
The History of the Green Card Lottery
The Green Card Lottery used to be called the NP-5 Lottery in 1987. Back then, the program only gave out 5,000 visas per year to citizens of 36 countries.
In 1990, the new OP-1 Program gave away 10,000 visas, while the AA-1 Program later issued 40,000 visas.
Eventually, in 1994, this program came to be known as the current Diversity Lottery. The applications have been digital since 2003, and you must add your photograph in digital format as well.
And since 2019, you have to hold a valid passport in order for your application to go through.
Guidelines to Watch Out For
In 1995, the US government issued a few new guidelines to the program.
First, each applicant could only apply once per year. If someone submits more than one application, then their diversity immigrant visa application is automatically disqualified.
If you have any mistakes in your application or you forgot to include any information, then this automatically disqualifies your application as well.
Who Is Eligible for the Green Card Lottery?
While the green card lottery is an amazing opportunity for many people to come live and work in the US, not everyone is eligible for the green card lottery in the US.
And while there are fewer requirements than other US visa types, you still need to make sure you meet the eligibility criteria.
First of all, you need to have at least a high school diploma. If you don’t have one, you need to prove at least 2 years of work experience within the past 5 years. This job has to be a job that requires at least 2 years of training.
Second of all, you need to be from an eligible country. The reason that the visa isn’t available to all countries is that the US wants to prioritize immigrants from countries that have less immigration to the US.
Recently, the favored countries have been African and Eastern European countries.
Countries that don’t make it on the diversity lottery list include Canada, Mexico, China, India, and the United Kingdom. This is because large numbers of immigrants already come to the US from these countries.
The list of eligible countries for the USA green card lottery changes every year, so make sure to check the updated list before you apply. As an added criterion, each country on the list can get 3,500 diversity visas each year.
And of course, the third criterion for eligibility is that the person is admissible to the US. The criteria for inadmissibility include criminal activity, health, national security, unlawful presence in the United States, to name a few.
How To Enter the Green Card Lottery
First of all, make sure that you keep an eye on green card application deadlines. Currently, the yearly window for application is between early October and early November.
Then, you want to fill out your green card application online. Remember that even if you’re admitted, it can take several years for you to actually enter the US, so don’t go selling your car and quitting your job yet.
The application will ask you for your basic information, including your name, gender, birth date, birth country, address, highest level of education, number of children, and marital status.
If your application gets picked, they’ll let you know through the online portal. At this stage, around 100,000 applications move on to the interview. The interviewers will then narrow down the applicants to a maximum of 55,000.
If you are selected for an interview, you will need to pay a fee to proceed (the current fee is $330 per person). You will also need to complete Form DS-260 to schedule an interview appointment at a US Embassy.
You need to bring every family member to the interview that will be coming to the US with you.
You’ll have to record your fingerprints at the interview. You’ll also need to bring many documents with you. These include your appointment letter, your passport, photographs, your DS-260 confirmation page, and your medical exam results.
You may also be required to bring any other required civil documents with you. These include birth certificates, court/prison records, marriage certificates, and documents showing your work experience or education.
For each document that you bring, you need to have the original (or a certified copy), a photocopy, and a certified translation if the original document is in a language other than English.
This list can be quite exhaustive, so make sure you double-check which of the required documents you need to bring with you.
Getting Your Green Card
Your interview officer will let you know if your application has been approved or denied at the end of the interview.
When you finally get approved for your Green Card, you need to pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee before you go to the US.
When you get to a US airport, they will stamp your passport with the I-551 stamp, which certifies you as a green card holder.
Remember that your entry to the US isn’t guaranteed once you get to the border. Like any other traveler, you need to obey all customs entry requirements before you are admitted to the US.
Common Green Card Application Mistakes
Not only can green card application mistakes cause your application to be denied, but you have to watch for these mistakes even if you win the lottery.
This is because you’ll have to do a visa interview after winning the lottery, and you need to make sure all your information adds up and is correct.
First of all, you need to make sure you write your last name and date of birth without any errors. This is the type of error that can disqualify your application even after you’ve won the lottery.
For example, if you have only one typo where one letter is wrong, then there may not be serious consequences. But if you gave the wrong birthdate, the officer can disqualify your application.
One huge yet common mistake is not listing all your family members. This type of scenario tends to happen if you’re in the middle of a divorce.
For example, you may be in the middle of your divorce, but you are technically still married. If you put “divorced” as your marital status, but haven’t completed your divorce and don’t have your divorce papers, then this can have severe consequences for your application.
You also need to make sure that the photos you submit with your application follow the exact instructions provided. The US Department of State requires that your photo is bright and sharp. You also must have a neutral expression and enough contrast with the photo background.
Make sure to check the photo requirements and see examples of acceptable photos before you submit your application.
Start Your New Life With the USA Green Card Lottery
For many people, a green card isn’t only a window to a new job. It’s the chance to start a new life and find new opportunities that you may not have had in your home country.
We hope this article helped you learn everything you need to know about the USA green card lottery and how you can make sure you apply the right way.
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