In U.S. immigration, employers and foreign national workers participate in the H-1B lottery each spring, with hopes of securing the temporary work visa, which allows for two, three-year periods of work authorization for highly skilled workers. The visa can often serve as a steppingstone to permanent residence through an employer-sponsored immigrant visa, more commonly known as a “green card.” But there is another immigration lottery – for green cards specifically – also conducted each spring, but with the registration period taking place in the prior October to November, which is just around the corner.
This other lottery, known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program), was established under the Immigration Act of 1990 to diversify the immigrant population in the United States. The program, administered by the U.S. Department of State (DOS), provides 50,000 immigrant visas annually – about five percent of the total for annual legal immigration. The lottery is open to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States – a country with fewer than 50,000 nationals admitted to the United States in the past five years. The winners are selected at random.
This path to permanent residence does not require sponsorship by an employer or a family member, unlike most other green card categories. The program provides an opportunity to immigrate and eventually become U.S. citizens for those without a connection to a relative or employer in the United States. In the past few decades, the largest region sending immigrants through the program is Africa, where nationals tend to have fewer ties to U.S. family or U.S. employers than natives of other regions. The second largest region sending immigrants through the program is Europe, where family ties tend to be generations in the past so that family members are too distantly related to sponsor each other for immigration.
The list of eligible countries is updated each year and due to their historically higher rates of immigration to the United States, certain countries including China, India, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Canada, among others, are excluded from the lottery. Eligible countries are grouped into six geographic regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, South America, and the Caribbean. The formula for allocating each region’s annual allotment is updated annually based on recent immigration statistics and generally allocates fewer visas to certain regions with higher admissions rates. Moreover, no one country may receive more than seven percent of the available DV immigrant visas in a fiscal year.
To participate in the lottery, an applicant must have been born in one of the eligible countries (certain exceptions allow an applicant to use their spouse’s or parent’s country of birth). If selected in the lottery, the applicant must then apply for an immigrant visa either through the DOS or the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). An individual residing abroad completes the processing through the DOS at the U.S. consulate in their home country. This includes submitting Form DS-260 with civil documents, attending an in-person interview, and completion of a medical exam. If approved, the individual travels to the United States and is admitted as a legal permanent resident. If at the time of lottery selection, the individual is temporarily residing in the United States, they may apply for adjustment of status with USCIS, which includes submission of Form I-485 with civil documentation, completing a medical exam, and an in-person interview.
To qualify for the immigrant visa, the applicant must have completed at least a high school education or two years of qualifying work experience and must prove that they are not subject to any applicable ground of inadmissibility relating to health, criminal activity, security, prior immigration violations, fraud and misrepresentation, public charge, among others. To overcome the public charge ground of inadmissibility, the applicant must either demonstrate that they have or will have sufficient income and/or assets or have a friend or relative complete an affidavit of support agreeing to financially sponsor the applicant once in the United States. The immigrant visa must be issued by September 30th – the last day of the fiscal year.
We are currently nearing the end of fiscal year 2022 (September 30th) with the 2023 fiscal year set to start on October 1st. This means that winners of DV-2022 (lottery for fiscal year 2022) must receive their immigrant visa by end of the month. The “winners” of DV-2023 were announced in May 2022 and their immigrant visas must be issued between October 1, 2022, and September 30, 2023. In October of this year, the DOS is expected to open the registration period for DV-2024. It is typically open for one month. The “winners” will be announced in May 2023, and the immigrant visas for DV-2024 will be granted between October 1, 2023, and September 30, 2024.
The chance of selection in the lottery is pretty low since millions of people apply for the lottery each fiscal year. The DOS typically selects more than 100,000 “winners,” which is double the number of available visas, since many individuals may ultimately decide not to apply for the green card or will not qualify based on the requirements.
The DV lottery has been in existence for almost three decades and in that time has provided many immigrants with the opportunity to achieve their American Dream. They have brought valuable talent to the U.S. labor force. But the program has nonetheless received criticism over the years and endured several legislative attempts at elimination. As we look toward any comprehensive immigration reform, it will be interesting to observe whether the DV lottery will remain a part of the U.S. immigration framework and in what form. For now, the DV-2024 lottery registration period is expected to open in just a few weeks and millions are expected to apply for their chance at “winning” the opportunity for permanent residence in the United States.
The material contained in this article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only. An attorney-client relationship is not presumed or intended by receipt or review of this presentation. The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.
Reprinted with permission from the September 14, 2022 edition of The Legal Intelligencer© 2022 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. ALMReprints.com – 877-257-3382 – email@example.com.