Can you imagine winning the lottery — but instead of money, you are awarded a US green card? That’s actually what the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program does!
Also referred to as the Diversity Visa Lottery or Green Card Lottery, the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program randomly selects 50,000 foreign national applicants to be the recipients of diversity immigrant visas, allowing them to earn permanent residence in the United States.
What Are the Requirements for a Diversity Immigrant Visa?
The congressionally mandated program makes diversity immigrant visas available to foreign nationals who apply for the visa and meet simple but very strict requirements.
Diversity immigrant visas are given out only to residents of countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Those born in any territory that has had more than 50,000 people immigrate to the United States in the past five years are not eligible to receive a diversity immigrant visa.
No single country can receive more than 7 percent (or 3,500) of the total number of diversity immigrant visas available.
This year, people from the following countries were ineligible to apply:
- China (mainland-born)
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- The Philippines
- South Korea
- United Kingdom (excluding Northern Ireland)
Additionally, to receive a diversity immigrant visa, an applicant must have at least a high school diploma, the equivalent of a high school diploma, or two years of work experience in an occupation requiring at least two years of training.
How Do You Get a Diversity Immigrant Visa?
The window to apply for a diversity immigrant visa is generally narrow — while the dates vary from year to year, it is usually for most of the month of October.
Additionally, due to processing times, the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program requires eligible foreign nationals to apply “in advance” — for example, this year, foreign nationals were applying to take part in the 2012 Diversity Visa Lottery.
About six months after the application times close, the “winners” are chosen and notified via letters. The letters are usually received between May and July of the following year — winning applicants for the 2012 Diversity Visa Lottery will most likely receive their letters in May, June or July of 2011.
If your lottery entry is chosen, don’t celebrate just yet — to allow for those who choose not to pursue diversity immigrant visas, and for the applicants who do not meet qualifications, more than 50,000 applicants are chosen. You will have to meet all the requirements and pass an interview before you are awarded your diversity immigrant visa.
The interviews are scheduled according to case number and will be held until 50,000 visas are awarded or until the program officially closes at the end of September.
Diversity Immigrant Visa Program Controversy
Many people argue that the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is not fair. Opponents say that it is basically a free visa with very few real requirements.
Temporary legal residents who have resided in the United States for a long time also question the fairness of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Highly skilled workers, like those with H-1B visas, often stay in the United States for more than a decade but don’t always have the opportunity to apply for an employment-based green card. While these capable workers have been in the United States for years, 50,000 random people are offered an easy path to a green card.
While people have conflicting opinions on whether or not it is fair, the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is certainly popular — and since it is a mandated part of the Immigration and Nationality Act, it will continue to be for years to come.