FY18 Diversity Lottery Registration Opens Oct 4, 2016

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has issued instructions for entry in the fiscal year 2018 (FY18) diversity visa (DV) lottery. The DV lottery, often called the “green card” lottery, grants 50,000 immigrant visas each year to qualified applicants. Registration for FY18 begins on October 4, 2016, and will conclude on November 7, 2016, at noon Eastern Time.

Eligibility Limited to Designated Countries

The purpose of the DV lottery is to provide permanent resident status to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Thus, the first step is to review the list of excluded countries of origin, whose nationals are generally NOT eligible to apply. There are two exceptions to this rule: (1) those who have a spouse born in a qualifying country; and, less commonly, (2) certain foreign nationals who were born outside their parents’ country of birth and residence.

Education / Work Experience Requirement

DV lottery applicants are also subject to an educational or work experience requirement. An applicant must have at least a high school education (or equivalent), or two years of work experience within the past five years in a qualifying occupation. Qualifying occupations are, per the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), those that require at least two years of training or experience. The instructions provide guidance on the qualifying education requirement and how to determine the amount of experience required for one’s occupation.

Instructions to Apply for the DV Lottery

DV lottery registration is only possible through a designated online portal. Applicants should go over the rules and frequently asked questions (FAQs) before completing the registration form. Applications must be complete and contain accurate information regarding the marital status and the name of one’s spouse (if any). It is important to include all living, unmarried children under age 21. Similarly, the instructions set out specific requirements for submission of photographs of the applicant and all listed family members (spouse and children). Failure to provide all the information and photographs requested will result in disqualification.

Confirmation Number Requirement

After submission of a proper DV18 electronic entry, an applicant is directed to the confirmation page. This provides the applicant with an individual confirmation number. It is important to retain this information in order to check back to find out whether one has been selected in the lottery.

Lottery Results Posted Online in May 2017

After registration is complete, the DOS conducts a lottery to select the applicants who may be able to pursue permanent residence under the DV program. Using the confirmation number discussed above, an applicant can see the outcome of the case as of May 2, 2017.

Selection No Guarantee of Green Card

The DOS can issue a maximum of 50,000 diversity visas each fiscal year. If any of these immigrant visas go unused, they do not carry over to the next fiscal year. Since some of the lottery “winners” ultimately will not wish to complete the permanent residence process, or will not be eligible to do so, the DOS selects far more than 50,000 lottery applications to better ensure that all of the available visas are used. This means that “winning” the DV lottery does not guarantee that one will actually receive a green card under the DV program.

Instructions After DV Selection

Individuals selected in the DV lottery are provided additional instructions on how to further pursue the green card process. Applicants who are abroad will need to process for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consular post abroad. This is known as consular processing (CP). If the immigrant visa is granted, the individual is permitted to travel to the United States and gain admission as a permanent resident at an airport or other U.S. port of entry. Individuals who are in the United States may select to use CP or, more commonly, file for adjustment of status, if otherwise eligible to do so.

Legal Advice and Assistance

There are specific procedural requirements attached to eligibility for both adjustment of status (AOS) applications and CP. There are additional procedural variations that are specific to the DV lottery program, and strict timelines. Still, the DV lottery entry process is intended to be user friendly and individuals typically complete their entries without the help of a lawyer. Once selected, however, it is common practice for a winner to seek the assistance of an immigration lawyer with the adjustment of status filing, if the individual is present in lawful status in the United States, or for consular processing.

Winning Requires Submission

While the chances that a qualifying applicant will be selected may be relatively low, given the large number of applications filed each year, there are tens of thousands of fortunate individuals each year who become permanent residents through the DV lottery program. Over the years, there have been some scammers who claim to represent the DOS or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the DV lottery program, so beware. There is no government fee to enter into the DV lottery and, given that the initial process is fairly straightforward, most who qualify may apply without incurring substantial financial costs.


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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.