2013 Diversity Lottery Filing Deadline by November 5, 2011

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) Diversity Visa (DV) “green card” lottery for fiscal year 2013 (FY13) registration period will close on November 5, 2011. Interested applicants need to submit their online entries by 12 noon, Eastern Time (U.S.), November 5, 2011, to have a chance of participation. The FY13 DV program will allocate 50,000 immigrant visa numbers to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

New Fiscal Year Means New Lottery Cycle

The DV lottery cycle always begins with the new fiscal year. However, since it is a multi-step process, applications are submitted for the upcoming fiscal year well in advance. This allows for the selection process to be completed in time for “winners,” or those selected to participate, to utilize the visa numbers and become permanent residents during FY13. Qualification for registration is based upon country of origin. Countries with high rates of immigration do not qualify for this program.

Instructions for Applying to the DV Lottery Program

The instructions for entry are available on the DOS WebSite. These should be reviewed carefully. It is vital to note not only the last day of registration, November 5, 2011, but also the time: noon, Eastern Time (U.S.). Registration is done exclusively through an online system, as has been the case since the FY03 DV lottery. It is best not to wait until the very end of the registration period, as high demand can cause technical problems.

“Winning” is Only the Beginning

After the registration period closes, the DOS selects “winners” from the applicant pool. However, these individuals do not actually win a green card. They win the possible opportunity to apply for a green card by being selected to file their documents under the DV lottery program. While 50,000 immigrant visas are available under the FY13 DV program, the DOS always selects far more than 50,000 applicants as lottery winners. This over selection is intended to make sure there are enough eligible candidates in the pool to result in 50,000 individuals who ultimately will pursue and be granted the green card during FY13 (from October 1, 2012 until September 30, 2013). Not everyone who wins can meet the procedural requirements for a green card; some lottery winners do not have the education or employment experience qualifications for this category. Other winners will not move forward with their applications for a variety of personal, professional, logistical, or other reasons.

Filing Documents after Selection to be Eligible for the GC

Based upon selection, winners will be provided with detailed instructions for applying for the actual green card. Individuals who are outside the United States will need to process for an immigrant visa at the appropriate U.S. consulate abroad. Those who are within the U.S. will have the option of either filing the adjustment of status to permanent residence in the U.S. or consular processing for the immigrant visa abroad. Applicants must meet all legal requirements for the adjustment of status or consular processing procedures. It generally is best to seek legal advice regarding procedures and requirements, to avoid delays and problems in the case.

Warnings: Fraud and Other Issues

Every year, the DV program brings out more unscrupulous individuals trying to defraud foreign nationals with various related scam efforts. The DV lottery itself is a legitimate government program. One need only make sure that everything is done solely through proper channels. There is no government fee for registration. The DOS no longer sends letters to lottery winners. There is an online system for each applicant to determine whether his/her application has been selected. Thus, if one receives a “winner” letter, blind “dear applicant” communication, or is similarly contacted regarding the lottery, these are not genuine. The DOS WebSite carries a fraud warning and helpful fraud FAQs.

DV Lottery is Simply Another Option for GC Filing

The lottery is purely a matter of random selection and luck. It generally is worth a try for one who is eligible. However, no one should rely on the DV program until s/he has received an approved green card. As stated above, even being selected as one of the winners does not assure that one ultimately will become a permanent resident under the DV lottery program. We note that it is possible to enter the lottery even if one has other types of immigration cases in process. There is no conflict between the lottery and the family and/or employment-based green card options. Persons who register for the lottery can also initiate any family or employment-based green card options available to them.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Most people enter the lottery without legal assistance. If selected, winners may wish to use qualified legal assistance to prepare, file, and otherwise attend to the remaining green card processing. It is vital that everything is filed correctly in a DV lottery case. There are very tight timeframes and legal issues that must be addressed when filing an I-485 or Consular Processing case. There is simply not enough time to fix mistakes, or obtain unanticipated documents from abroad at the last minute.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.