Green Card Through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

Every year the Department of State allocates up to 50,000 immigrant visas per fiscal year to a special class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants,” for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is a congressionally mandated program made possible by section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Diversity immigrants are those who come from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. In order to qualify for a diversity visa, essentially a green card, you must be a native of a country participating in the diversity visa program.

You are considered a native of a participating country if it is your country of birth. Your country of residence or nationality is irrelevant for qualification purposes. Certain individuals are entitled to be charged to a country other than their country of birth. Chargeability refers to the country of limitation the immigrant will be counted toward Numerical limitations require each diversity visa applicant to be counted or ‘charged’ to a specific country for visa limitation purposes. There are three ways to select your country of chargeability for the program. Typically, an immigrant’s country of eligibility will be their country of birth, however the applicant may also be charged to their spouse’s country of birth, or the country of birth of their parents, if the applicant was born in a different country of birth or lives in a different country of residence.

Diversity immigrants may register for the diversity visa program electronically every fiscal year at no cost by visiting www.dvlottery.state.gov. Applicants are selected at random through a randomized computer ‘lottery’ system. Allocation of the 50,000 available immigrant visas for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is divided into six geographic regions. No more than 7% of the total immigrant visas available may be allocated to any one country per fiscal year. The 6 geographic regions are Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, and South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Registration for the upcoming 2017 fiscal year concluded on November 3, 2015.

Once an applicant has been selected for the immigrant visa program, there are generally two ways the applicant will be able to apply for the diversity immigrant visa program a) while the alien is lawfully present in the United States or b) while the alien is residing in their home country via a United States consulate overseas. Even if you are already registered for a different immigrant visa type, you may still apply for the diversity visa program. The Kentucky Consular Center processes all diversity immigrant visa applications until applicants are scheduled for an interview at a USCIS field office or US Consulate overseas. The diversity immigrant visa process culminates in an interview to establish the applicant’s final eligibility. All applicants are subject to an interview.

IMPORTANT: Once selected, applicants may only apply for diversity visa issuance during the fiscal year in which they were selected. Applicants are strongly encouraged to apply for their diversity visas as soon as possible, before available visas have been allocated. Visas must be obtained by the end of the fiscal year during which the applicant was selected. If you do not obtain your visa or adjust status by the end of the fiscal year, your entry will not carry over to the following year and you will forfeit your selection.

Countries Eligible for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program by Region

The countries that are currently eligible to participate in the program are as follows:

1. AFRICA

AlgeriaAngolaBeninBotswana
Burkina FasoBurundiCameroonCape Verde
Central African RepublicChadComorosCongo
Congo, Democratic Republic of the Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)DjiboutiEgypt*Equatorial Guinea
EritreaEthiopiaGabonGambia
GhanaGuineaGuinea-BissauKenya
LesothoLiberiaLibyaMadagascar
MalawiMaliMauritaniaMauritius
MoroccoMozambiqueNamibiaNiger
RwandaSao Tome and PrincipeSenegalSeychelles
Sierra LeoneSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Sudan
SudanSwazilandTanzaniaTogo
TunisiaUgandaZambiaZimbabwe *

Applicants born in areas administered prior to June 1967 by Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt are chargeable, respectively, to Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. Applicants born in the Gaza Strip are chargeable to Egypt; applicants born in the West Bank are chargeable to Jordan; applicants born in the Golan Heights are chargeable to Syria.

In Africa, natives of Nigeria are not eligible for this year’s Diversity Visa program.

2. ASIA

AfghanistanBahrainBhutanBrunei
BurmaCambodiaHong Kong Special Administrative Region**Indonesia
IranIraqIsrael*Japan
Jordan*KuwaitLaosLebanon
MalaysiaMaldivesMongoliaNepal
North KoreaOmanQatarSaudi Arabia
SingaporeSri LankaSyria*Taiwan**
ThailandTimor-LesteUnited Arab EmiratesYemen

Natives of the following Asia Region countries are not eligible for this year’s Diversity Visa program: Bangladesh, China (mainland-born), India, Pakistan, South Korea, Philippines, and Vietnam.

Hong Kong S.A.R. (Asia region), Macau S.A.R. (Europe region), and Taiwan (Asia region) do qualify and are listed here.

3. EUROPE

AlbaniaAndorraArmeniaAustriaAzerbaijanBelarusBelgium
Bosnia and HerzegovinaBulgariaCroatiaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkEstonia
FinlandFranceGeorgiaGermanyGreeceHungaryIceland
IrelandItalyKazakhstanKosovoKyrgyzstanLatviaLiechtenstein
LithuaniaLuxembourgMacau Special Administrative Region**MacedoniaMaltaMoldovaMonaco
MontenegroNetherlandsNorthern Ireland**NorwayPolandPortugalRomania
RussiaSan MarinoSerbiaSlovakiaSloveniaSpainSweden
SwitzerlandTajikistanTurkeyTurkmenistanUkraineUzbekistanVatican City

Natives of the following European countries are not eligible for this year’s DV program: Great Britain (United Kingdom). Great Britain (United Kingdom) includes the following dependent areas: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, and Turks and Caicos Islands.

For purposes of the diversity program only, Northern Ireland is treated separately; Northern Ireland does qualify and is listed among the qualifying areas. Macau S.A.R. does qualify and is listed above.

4. NORTH AMERICA

The Bahamas

In North America, natives of Canada and Mexico are not eligible for this year’s DV program.

5. OCEANIA

AustraliaFijiKiribatiMarshall IslandsMicronesia, Federated States ofNauruNew Zealand
PalauPapua New GuineaSolomon IslandsTongaTuvaluVanuatuSamoa

6. SOUTH AMERICA, CENTRAL AMERICA, AND THE CARIBBEAN

Antigua and BarbudaArgentinaBarbadosBelize
BoliviaChileCosta RicaCuba
DominicaGrenadaGuatemalaGuyana
HondurasNicaraguaPanamaParaguay
Saint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSuriname
Trinidad and TobagoUruguayVenezuela

Countries in this region whose natives are not eligible for this year’s DV program: Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, and Peru.

Requirements for the Diversity Visa Program
  1. You must be a native of a country participating in the diversity immigrant visa program. If you were not born in a participating country, you may be charged to your spouse’s country of birth if both you and your spouse are on the selected entry, are issued diversity visas, and enter the US at the same time.

If you were born in a country where neither of your parents were born or reside, you may be charged to the participating country of birth of one of your parents.

Academic or Work Experience Component
  1. Diversity visa applicants must possess at least a high school diploma or its equivalent or qualifying work experience. To fulfill the academic component, applicants must demonstrate that they have successfully completed a 12-year course of formal elementary or secondary education (copy of the diploma and transcripts). To fulfill the work experience component, applicants must possess two years of work experience within the last 5 years in an occupation requiring 2 years of training or more (resume and work experience letters). Applicant’s may utilize the Department of Labor’s O*Net database to determine if they possess the qualifying work experience. On the O*Net database follow these steps to determine if your occupation qualifies:
    1. Under “Find Occupations” select “Job Family” from the pull down menu;
    2. Browse by “Job Family,” make your selection, and click “GO”;
    3. Click on the link for your specific occupation; and 4. Select the tab “Job Zone” to find the designated Job Zone number and Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) rating range.
Selection

Applicants may apply for the diversity visa program by submitting their Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form (E-DV Entry Form or DS-5501) electronically at www.dvlottery.state.gov before the deadline published on the DOS website. Paper entries are not accepted. The Department of State will accept only one entry for each person during each registration period. If you submit more than one entry you will be disqualified from the program for that fiscal year. There is no fee to submit an entry form. It is very important to retain a copy of your submission along with the confirmation page and unique confirmation number assigned to your entry. Once you submit your entry a confirmation screen will show your name and unique confirmation number. You will need your confirmation number to access the online system at a later time in order to check the status of your entry and immigrant visa appointment by visiting the same website and clicking ‘Entrant Status Check.’ Applicants will not receive individual confirmation that they have been accepted for a diversity visa. It is the applicant’s responsibility to check the status of their entry.

Once your entry is selected you will be directed to a confirmation page that will provide you further instructions and filing fees you must pay in order to immigrate to the United States. If you do not meet the academic or work experience requirements, your application will be rejected during your visa interview with an immigration or consular officer.

Spouses and Dependents

If you are married, you and your spouse may submit separate diversity visa entries provided you meet the eligibility requirements for the diversity visa program. This will allow you and your spouse two opportunities to be selected through derivative status. You must list your spouse on your entry form even if your spouse does not live with you and does not intend to immigrate with you, unless your spouse is a US Citizen, Legal Permanent Resident, or you are legally separated.

You must list all of your living children (including step-children, your spouse’s children, or adopted children) on your entry form, if they are unmarried and under 21 years of age at the time of submission, regardless of whether they live with you or intend to immigrate with you, unless your child is a US citizen or Legal Permanent Resident (LPR). Unmarried children under the age of 21 are entitled to derivative diversity visa status as your dependents.

Parents and siblings do not qualify for derivative status. You must disclose all of your eligible dependents on your original diversity visa entry form. Failure to do so will result in the disqualification of your application at the time of your visa interview and you will not receive your diversity visa. If you have been selected for a diversity visa, and you acquire additional dependents after the submission of your entry, you may add those family members to your Form DS-260 with the Department of State.

Application Process & Supporting Documents

Once you have been selected for the diversity immigrant visa program, you will need to apply for an immigrant visa to enter the United States through a process known as consular processing, by filing Form DS-260 with the Department of State if you are living abroad. If you are residing lawfully in the United States you will need to file USCIS Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status with USCIS to adjust your status from non-immigrant to permanent resident. Filing fees apply for both Forms. Applicants residing abroad will receive their interview at a United States Consulate overseas. Applicants residing in the United States lawfully will receive their interview at their local USCIS field office. If you have been previously deported or acquired unlawful presence in the United States you may need to file an I-212 waiver or I-601 waiver before applying for the diversity immigrant visa program.

Below we will discuss the application process and supporting documents that should be included for both adjustment of status processing and consular processing.

A) Adjustment of Status Processing from Within the United States

Eligibility

In order to qualify for adjustment of status, the applicant must meet the following requirements:

  1. Have been selected for a diversity visa by DOS’s lottery;
  2. Have an immigrant visa immediately available at the time of filing an adjustment application (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status); and
  3. Be admissible to the United States (no major crimes, no deportations, or unlawful presence);

NOTE: Adjustment of status applicants who have won diversity visas must apply for permanent residence before September 30 of the fiscal year for which they won the lottery.

AOS Supporting Documents

The following is a list of some supporting documents that should be included with the adjustment of status application USCIS Form I-485. The list is not all inclusive and specific details pertaining to your application should be discussed with a licensed attorney in detail. Additional documents may be necessary depending on the specific case. NOTE: Do not send original documents to USCIS, except as specified below. Original documents must be collected and presented at the interview. Your spouse and children will be required to accompany you at the interview.

Adjustment of status must mail the following documents along with Form I-485 to USCIS:

Principal applicant’s supporting documents:

  1. Signed I-485, G-325A, I-765, along with supporting documents;
  2. Filing fee for I-485 payable by personal check, money order, or cashier’s check, see I-485 form instructions;
  3. 4 American Style Passport Photographs measuring 2” by 2”;
  4. Copy of the principal applicant’s selection letter for the diversity visa lottery from DOS;
  5. Copy of the receipt from DOS for the diversity visa lottery processing fee;
  6. Copy of the Beneficiary’s Birth Certificate with certified English translation;
  7. Copy of the Beneficiary’s passport I.D. page, Visa I.D. page, and I-94;
  8. Beneficiary’s Original I-20’s or DS-2019’s (For F-1, J-1, or M-1 visa holders);
  9. Copy of the Beneficiary’s previously issued employment authorization cards if any (front and back);
  10. Copy of marriage certificate with certified English translation (if applicable);
  11. Copy of final divorce decrees with certified English translation (if applicable);
  12. Copy of applicant’s academic record (diploma and transcripts with certified English translations or proof of relevant work experience (resume, work experience letters, proof of completion of training, O*NET printouts proving qualification for the occupation);
  13. If the Beneficiary has been arrested, the Beneficiary must provide certified copies of court records with certified English translations;
  14. Beneficiary’s Sealed Form I-693 Medical Examination;

If you are married and/or have children include the following documents in the same package:

Applicant`s spouse’s supporting documents:

  1. Signed I-485, G-325A, I-765, along with supporting documents;
  2. Filing fee for I-485 payable by personal check, money order, or cashier’s check, see I-485 form instructions;
  3. 4 American Style Passport Photographs measuring 2” by 2”;
  4. Copy of the principal applicant’s selection letter for the diversity visa lottery from DOS;
  5. Copy of the receipt from DOS for the diversity visa lottery processing fee;
  6. Copy of the Beneficiary’s Birth Certificate with certified English translation;
  7. Copy of the Beneficiary’s passport I.D. page, Visa I.D. page, and I-94;
  8. Beneficiary’s Original I-20’s or DS-2019’s (For F-1, J-1, or M-1 visa holders);
  9. Copy of the Beneficiary’s previously issued employment authorization cards if any (front and back);
  10. Copy of final divorce decrees with certified English translation (if applicable;
  11. Copy of applicant’s academic record (diploma and transcripts with certified English translations or proof of relevant work experience (resume, work experience letters, proof of completion of training, O*NET printouts proving qualification for the occupation);
  12. If the Beneficiary has been arrested, the Beneficiary must provide certified copies of court records with certified English translations;
  13. Beneficiary’s Sealed Form I-693 Medical Examination;

Dependent Minor’s supporting documents:

  1. Signed I-485, G-325A, I-765, along with supporting documents;
  2. Filing fee for I-485 payable by personal check, money order, or cashier’s check, see I-485 form instructions (Under 14 and filing with the I-485 application of at least one parent);
  3. 4 American Style Passport Photographs measuring 2” by 2”;
  4. Copy of the principal applicant’s selection letter for the diversity visa lottery from DOS;
  5. Copy of the receipt from DOS for the diversity visa lottery processing fee;
  6. Copy of the Beneficiary’s Birth Certificate with certified English translation;
  7. Copy of the Beneficiary’s passport I.D. page, Visa I.D. page, and I-94;
  8. Beneficiary’s Original I-20’s or DS-2019’s (For F-1, J-1, or M-1 visa holders);
  9. Beneficiary’s Sealed Form I-693 Medical Examination;

B) Consular Processing for Diversity Immigrant Visa for Applicants Residing Abroad

Consular processing applicants must submit Form DS-260 with the Department of State and collect the following documents for the interview stage. Necessary documents required to be presented vary by country, please review the specific consulate’s instructions for accuracy. NOTE: Originals of these documents must also be presented at the interview for authenticity purposes.

Once the Kentucky Consular Center reviews your completed DS-260 and an immigrant visa is available for you, you will receive an email with your interview appointment. You will be directed to login to the Entrant Status Check webpage where you will enter your DV confirmation number to view details regarding your interview. Your spouse and children will be required to accompany you at the interview.

The following is a list of some supporting documents that should be included with Form DS-260. The list is not all inclusive and specific details pertaining to your application should be discussed with a licensed attorney in detail. Additional documents may be necessary depending on the specific case.

List of supporting documents for each applicant to be presented at the consular interview:

  1. Form DS-260 confirmation page;
  2. Proof of payment of DS-260 immigrant visa fee;
  3. 2 American Style Passport Photographs measuring 2” by 2”;
  4. Copy of the principal applicant’s selection letter for the diversity visa lottery from DOS;
  5. Copy of the receipt from DOS for the diversity visa lottery processing fee;
  6. Copy of Beneficiary’s Birth Certificate with certified English translation;
  7. Copy of Beneficiary’s passport I.D. page, Visa I.D. page, and I-94 (if applicable);
  8. Beneficiary’s Original I-20’s or DS-2019’s (For F-1, J-1, or M-1 visa holders);
  9. Copy of marriage certificate with certified English translation (if applicable);
  10. Copies of final divorce decrees with certified English translation (if applicable);
  11. Copy of Beneficiary’s academic record (diploma and transcripts with certified English translations or proof of relevant work experience (resume, work experience letters, proof of completion of training, O*NET printouts proving qualification for the occupation);
  12. Copy of Beneficiary’s military records for any country (if applicable);
  13. Copies of Beneficiary’s court and prison records (if applicable) if the intending immigrant has been convicted of a crime, provide a copy of each court or prison record, even if you were granted a pardon, amnesty, or act of clemency;
  14. Copies of custody documentation if the principal applicant is the parent of an adopted child and the child will be immigrating with the principal applicant. Provide custody documentation, adoption decree, statement of dates and places the child resided with the adoptive parent(s). If the child was adopted at 16 or 17 years old, provide evidence that the child was adopted with, or subsequent to, the adoption of, a natural sibling under age 16 by the same adoptive parent(s);
  15. Copies of police certificates for persons 16 years of age or older from your country of nationality or country of residence if you were at least 16 years of age and resided there for at least 6 months, country of previous residence if you were at least 16 years of age and resided there for at least a year, and any country where you were arrested. Some countries may not require a police certificate. Please review country reciprocity guidelines;
  16. Beneficiary’s Sealed Form I-693 Medical Examination;
    Note: Once you have received an interview appointment from the Kentucky Consular Center you will need to schedule a medical examination appointment with an authorized physician in the country where you will receive your interview. For more information please click here;

For more information on the diversity visa application process please click here.

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