Immigration Law

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Questions on Visa Lottery Requirements

One of the ways to legally immigrate to the United States is to depend wholly on luck and enter the congressionally mandated visa lottery. This lottery offers 50,000 Green Cards to individuals from selected countries. This is a part of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program and is open to countries that generally have low rates of immigration to the United States. Individuals born in countries with already high rates of immigration would not be eligible to apply. Participation in the lottery is available through the State Department’s website at

Listed below are a few questions answered by immigration lawyers on visa lottery related issues.

I came to the U.S. after winning a visa lottery. I did not include my son at that time since I didn’t have a photo of his to scan. After I received the USCIS forms, I was told that I couldn’t get the visa if I included him. Now what can I do to make him join me?

If your son was not put on the application, all you can do now is to file an I-130 petition for him and wait for it to be processed. You will not be able to go back to your DV application and re-open it to include him. In addition, your DV number would no longer be available since it is a different fiscal year now so you can only go the I-130 route.

A man from the Ivory Coast won the immigration visa lottery and has been residing in the U.S. for over a year. He wants to visit the Ivory Coast and is worried he may not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. He has a Green Card with 10-year validity. Are there any restrictions on an immigration visa?

He should have no problem re-entering the country as long as he does so within 180 days. If he wants to stay out of the country for a longer period of time, he would need to file for a re-entry permit before he leaves. This would give him up to two years to stay out of the country without losing his residency status. This form can be located at

I am a Bangladeshi and my husband won the DV (Diversity Visa lottery) three years ago. I received my Green Card along with him, as his spouse, and we have been staying in the U.S. ever since. Does my Green Card still remain valid if we divorce? Will I still be eligible to apply for citizenship after five years as a divorcée?

Yes, your Green Card would be secure even after you divorce your husband. And yes, you can also apply for citizenship after five years.

Are there any educational or other qualifying criteria to enter the diversity visa lottery? How many times can I enter the lottery?

No. The requirement of the Diversity Visa lottery is that you can show you will not be a public charge when you are a Green Card holder in the U.S. As far as applying, while you may not apply more than one time for the same lottery, you can reapply each year if you are not picked.

There are several websites that claim to help applicants win the visa lottery. The Department of State has recognized this and has issued several warnings about these fraudulent websites that masquerade as government sites. Some of them even use seals and official flags to promote a legitimate look and charge for their services. These should be looked at as warning signs since participation in the Diversity Visa Lottery is absolutely free and the Department of State’s official website is the only place where you can fill out a legitimate entry form.
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