What is the Diversity Visa?
The diversity visa creates a pathway to citizenship for people from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S. There are 55,000 Diversity Visas are available for what’s called DV-2023 — Meaning Diversity Visa year 2023, which is equivalent to the government fiscal year 2023, which begins Oct. 1, 2022 and goes through Sept. 30, 2023. So you apply now (basically all of October 2021) and then you find out mid-next year, and if you win the Diversity Visa lottery, you apply for an immigrant visa, or green card, beginning October of next year (2022).
Why is it important now?
There is only 1 month to enter the lottery! This year, entries are accepted online through the U.S. Department of State between Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, through Tuesday November 9, 2021. The Dept of State recommends not waiting until the last week to register because high demand could cause website delays.
How are Diversity Visas chosen?
The U.S. Department of State picks winners through a random computer drawing. No single country can receive more than 7% of the available Diversity Visas each year.
Who is eligible?
There’s 2 main qualifications: Your country and your education or work experience.
So, for the country you are from. The Department of State uses the term “natives” of a country with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S. But what does “native” mean? Well, here, Native means the country where you were BORN. However! Even if you were born in a country that does NOT qualify, all hope is not lost. You can still possibly qualify under 2 situations: 1) if your spouse was born in an eligible country, then you can claim that country too! The second alternative to your birth country is a bit confusing – you can use the birth country of either of your parents SO LONG AS neither of your parents were born in or a resident of YOUR birth country at the time of your birth. Is your head spinning?! Let’s break it down. Let’s say you were born in Brazil, then you’re a native of Brazil, and that’s a bummer for the Diversity Visa because you’re not qualified. BUT if your parents were born in Portugal for example and neither was a resident of Brazil at the time of your birth (like they were there to visit, study, or only work temporarily when you were born), then you get to use Portugal as your “native” country.
Most countries actually do qualify, so I’m going to give you the list of countries that don’t:
Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (including Hong Kong SAR), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Why don’t these countries qualify? Well, more than 50,000 people immigrated to the U.S. from each of these countries in the past 5 years – making them “high admission countries” or countries considered to have a high rate of immigration to the U.S.
But remember, even if you were born in one of these countries, if you fit one of the alternatives that I mentioned before, then you can still qualify!
Regarding the education or work experience requirement. You must EITHER have completed high school OR have 2 years of work experience in the past 5 years in a qualifying job.
Things to note for this qualification: high school means 12 years of formal education, so for example, it would NOT count if you got a General Equivalency Degree, better known as a GED (which is a high school equivalency diploma where you take a test to prove your academic skills instead of finishing high school).
As for the work experience, this one can be a bit complicated. Not just any job will do. Rather, the job must require at least 2 years of training or experience to perform. To check if your job qualifies, the Department of State sends you to the Department of Labor’s career exploration and job analysis website called “O*Net Online” found at www.onetonline.org.
Then, to find your job follow these steps:
- Under “Find Occupations,” select “Job Family” from the pull down menu
- Browse by “Job Family,” make your selection, and click “GO”
- Click on the link for your specific occupation
- Select the tab “Job Zone” to find the designated Job Zone number and Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) rating range, which must be at least 7.0.
Is there anything else that I need to apply?
How do I apply?
How much does it cost to apply?
How do I find out if I was selected?
I won the lottery! wait, did I win?
If I’m selected, what happens?
The Department of State is very clear that selection does not guarantee that you will receive the visa. First, you have to be selected. Then you fill out an immigrant visa form called DS-260. Once the government receives this form, then you will get instructions on submitting your supporting documents, like birth certificates, any court records, military records, police certificates, passport copy, including certified translations if any of these documents are in a language other than English.
Once you submit your documents, you then have an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. At the end of your interview, the consular officer tells you whether your visa application is approved or denied. It is worth noting that a visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S., as U.S. Customs and Border Protection still have to admit you into the country. Once you are admitted, however, you enter the U.S. as a Lawful Permanent Resident, or with a green card, which means you have authorization to work, and after 5 years with a green card, you may be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
What does the timeline look like?
You apply now, basically Oct. 2021, and then you check the Department of State’s Entrant Status Check on or after May 8, 2022. If you find out that you were selected, you can immediately file your DS-260, and interviews will begin Oct. 2022.
This process will continue until September 30, 2023. You have to be issued your Diversity Visa — which occurs after your interview — by September 30, 2023. That doesn’t mean you won’t get your interview until 2023. It just means if you forget to check to see if you qualify until early 2023, and then you drag your feet on your paperwork, you may end up being too late.
What are my chances of winning the diversity visa?
Well, it’s probably less than 1% because previous years have had 23 million entries. However, as my high school math teacher used to said about playing the CA powerball lottery, it’s a 0% chance if you don’t enter!
Do I need an attorney to help me apply for the diversity visa?
The Diversity Visa entry process is set up for individuals to complete the entry themselves. If you have any questions with the process, feel free to contact our office. Then, if you are selected, you will likely want to hire an attorney to help you through the next steps of the actual immigrant visa process.
OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE:
- Even if you are relying on your spouse’s country to qualify, both you and your spouse can apply.
- You can apply from anywhere in the world, including while in the U.S. So, for example, if you are a student studying in the U.S. on a temporary student visa, you can enter the lottery. If you’re chosen, then you may be eligible to obtain a green card for permanent residency through the Diversity Visa Program.
- Similarly, you can also still apply if you have an immigrant visa pending. For example, if you have a U.S. citizen sister sponsoring you to join her in the U.S., but it’s still a several-year wait before your visa category is current, then you can still enter the Diversity Visa lottery.
- It’s really important when you’re filling out your application: You must include your spouse and ALL living children unmarried and under age 21 at the time of your Diversity Visa entry, even if they don’t live with you and/or don’t intend to immigrate to the U.S. with you if you win. The government uses the term Children here very broadly to include: children born to you, your step-children (even if you are divorced from that child’s parent), your spouse’s children, and adopted children. If you do not properly include all of these family members, you will be ineligible for a Diversity Visa.
The only exception to this requirement is for a spouse or child who is already a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident, but you can still include them on your entry and it won’t hurt you
- You can only enter the lottery one time per person per year. Your entry is recorded once you receive a confirmation number. If you did not get a confirmation number, then something went wrong and you need to do it again. Once you receive a confirmation number, you are done with the initial entry (so don’t try to apply again!!).
I hope you found this information about the diversity visa interesting and helpful. Don’t forget to subscribe and follow us, so you never miss any new updates on immigration.
Please always feel free to ask general questions in the comments, and if you have case specific questions about the Diversity Visa, reach out to our office. We’re happy to help.