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Diversity Visa Lottery & Requirements

The Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Program is a process whereby aliens of select nationalities are offered an opportunity to obtain permanent resident status in the United States. Administered annually by the Department of State, the diversity visa program is conducted under the terms of INA §203(c). Applicants for these visas need to meet a set of straightforward yet strict eligibility requirements and are chosen by computer-generated random selection.

Listed below are a few questions on diversity visas answered by immigration lawyers.

I am currently in the U.S. on a valid B1/B2 visa and was recently selected for the diversity visa. Do I need to go back to my country and file for this or can I process this through the consulate here?

Most people selected for the Diversity Lottery would be eligible to adjust their status in the U.S. if they have entered the country legally. So you shouldn’t have any problem adjusting your status while in the country. However, you must keep in mind that it is not recommended for an individual to leave the U.S. with a Green Card application that is pending. In case you have to leave before your Green Card is approved, you would need to get advance parole using USCIS I-131. An immigration lawyer can help you with the adjustment of status application.

I am an illegal resident in the U.S. and have applied for a diversity visa. If I win the diversity lottery, can I get a waiver so I won’t be banned from re-entering the country?

Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be possible. You would need to reside in the U.S. legally to make use of the visa or you would have to leave the country and if you do that, you may not be allowed in for ten years. The waiver that exists can only be used if you have a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse or parent who can petition for you.

I got a diversity visa when I was single and then got married and came to the U.S. Now that I have a Green Card, is my wife eligible to get a visa as well?

You would need to file an I-130 for your wife and this could take about 5-6 years. If you had gotten married before you got your diversity immigrant visa, your wife would have been able to accompany you. You can get the I-130 here

I have overstayed my tourist visa in the U.S. by about ten years. Recently, I was selected by the diversity visa lottery and am wondering if I can get a Green Card now. I can’t find a law company that is willing to take on my case.

The reason a law firm is not interested in your case is that you have been out of status in the U.S. for 10 years. Winning the diversity lottery was lucky but you cannot adjust your status in the U.S. because you are living in the country out of status. There are two exceptions to this ineligibility: If you were sponsored by a U.S. citizen spouse or if you were sponsored by a U.S. citizen child over the age of 21. However, winning the diversity lottery does not give you an exception. If you leave the country to process your visa, you could trigger a 10-year bar from re-entering. Since you accrued more than one year of unlawful presence, you will trigger the bar the moment you leave. That’s the reason why a law firm can’t help you.

Applicants who win a visa through the Diversity Visa Lottery Program will be eligible to live and work permanently in the U.S. along with their children and spouse. To apply for the diversity visa program, every applicant would need to file Form I-485 when a visa becomes available. They must also file an online application for the DV Lottery Program at the official U.S. Department of State website. Program applications are only accepted at specific times of the year–usually between October and December.
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