What is the Diversity Visa Program? 

The Diversity Visa Program, also known as the Diversity Lottery or DV Lottery, offers up to 50,000 immigrant visas to foreign nationals residing in countries with the lowest immigration rates to the United States. The program, spearheaded by the State Department’s Immigration and Nationality Act, is considered a “lottery” as recipients are randomly chosen from the approximately 12 million applications received by the United States each year.

Conceived in the 1980s by former President Ronald Reagan, who voiced concern that many countries were greatly underrepresented in visa applications, diminishing the overall diversity in the United States. At the time, the vast majority of applicants hailed from Mexico, China, and the Philippines, outnumbering all other represented countries combined. The Diversity Lottery was designed to appeal to immigrants from lesser represented world regions and offer them a better opportunity to obtain an American visa.

Who is Eligible for the Diversity Lottery Visa?

In order for foreign nationals who would otherwise have no means of legally migrating to the United States, the eligibility requirements are not extensive, and divided into two groups – those residing outside the United States and those currently residing in-country, as follows:

Foreign nationals outside the United States:

  • Geography: Each year the U.S. Department of State (DOS) designates six eligible geographic world regions, with no single country receiving more than seven percent of Diversity Visas in any single year. Currently, those residing in the regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceana, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean are eligible to apply. Conversely, the DOS also designates countries with more than 50,000 residents migrating to the United States during the previous five years as ineligible. Currently, those countries are:
    • 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. Natives of Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible.
  • Education: Within the previous consecutive five years, applicants must have obtained the equivalent of a high school diploma or at least two years’ work experience in a field requiring two or more years of training or experience. DV Lottery selectees must provide documented proof of education or work experience during the visa interview process.
  • Age: There is no minimum age requirement to apply for the Diversity Visa, however, the education and work experience requirements typically disqualifies applicants under the age of 18.
  • Spouses and family members: Spouses are eligible to apply together, however, separate applications are required, and each must include the other in each application. If one spouse is selected, the other is automatically accepted, as are their children. If the selected spouse dies before the process is complete, the surviving family members will no longer be eligible.

Foreign Nationals Residing in the United States

Foreign nationals currently residing within the United States under a non-immigrant status can also apply for a Diversity Visa. The region, country, education, and work experience requirements are the same as those residing outside the country. If selected, however, the eligibility requirements differ and the process of obtaining the visa is somewhat quicker.

Diversity Lottery selectees should immediately apply for an adjustment of status through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). There is a limited monthly amount of available Diversity Visas for those already living within the United States. To apply for a status adjustment, selectees must file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status form. The application must include supporting documentation, including copies of the DOS lottery confirmation letter, birth certificate, passport, United States arrival and departure records, and any other applicable documents.

It is recommended that selectees applying for a change of status work with an experienced immigration lawyer in order to make sure your application package is accurate and complete before submitting. Incomplete applications, or lack of proper supporting documents, could cause the lottery offer to be rescinded.

How Can I Apply for the Diversity Visa?

As with most visa processes, applications for the Diversity Visa can be electronically submitted online through the State Department’s official website. Applicants can file only one application, and to prevent single persons from applying multiple times, the system contains a mechanism to detect multiple entries from one individual and disqualifies the applicant.

The DOS accepts Diversity Visa applications only during a certain time period, and late applications will not be accepted. The application website will be activated only during the allotted time period, the dates of which can be found on the DOS website.

Once you submit your application, you will be given a personal confirmation number that you must use to check the status of your application online and to complete further instructions and schedule your visa interview, if selected. It is important you keep the number you are given as another one will not be generated if you fail to keep yours.

Working with an attorney is not required in order to apply for a Diversity Visa, but it is a particularly good decision to utilize the services of a knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorney. The DOS disqualifies more than 40 percent of applicants each year due to clerical and formal errors in their applications, including misspellings and deadline errors. If disqualified, you will not be informed. This can only be determined by checking your application status online with your personal confirmation number.

Seeking assistance from an immigration attorney will ensure that you meet the strict adherence to dates, submit the proper and correct supplemental documents, and a complete and accurate application form.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin P.C. Assist Clients Applying for the Diversity Visa Lottery

The Diversity Visa allows many foreign nationals to migrate to the United States who would otherwise not be eligible. While the application requirements and process are often less detailed and time-consuming, inaccurate or incomplete application packets can disqualify you. Working with an experienced immigration legal team, such as the Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin P.C., ensures that your application packet will be correct, complete, and properly submitted. Call us at 215-925-4435 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation today. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.