What happens when you “win” the DV Lottery (Green Card Lottery)? Most people believe that you get a green card, which is a permanent residence card for the U.S. that allows you to live and work in the country. But that is not exactly right and there is a slightly more elaborate process involved.
Winners of the Diversity Visa Lottery actually “win” the opportunity to request a permanent residence card. For example, whereas other hopeful immigrants qualify to request a green card based on employment or family ties, selectees in the DV Lottery are given the chance to request their green card by virtue of their selection in the visa lottery. Therefore, “winners” are really just “selected” (or qualified) to apply for a green card.
The list for the initial Green Card Lottery application requirements is quite short, and the application itself demands little or no documentation. When selected in the DV Lottery, a second and more robust application process is required to verify that the winner is, indeed, eligible for permanent residence status.
For DV Lottery selectees who are already living in the U.S. under a nonimmigrant or other legal status when they are selected, the process is rather easy. They can adjust their current visa status (work visa, student visa, etc.) to permanent residence, usually while remaining in the country. The adjustment of status application is processed by the USCIS and requires completion of Form I-485 (“Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status”) and payment of a Diversity Visa fee.
In most cases, if you win the DV Lottery and are already living in the U.S. legally, the adjustment of status process to get your permanent residence card is as easy as making an appointment with a local USCIS field office and waiting for your green card to arrive by mail.
For winners living abroad, however, there is much more to manage, and the rest of this article mainly applies to this category of DV winners.
For selectees who are living outside of the United States at the time they are selected, the process is a little more complicated. The immigration process for them involves issuance of an immigrant visa (“Diversity Visa”) through a US embassy or consulate (usually in the country where the selectee is currently living, but sometimes in a regional location). This Diversity Visa, once issued, will permit the immigrant to travel to and enter the United States. After this initial entry into the U.S., the actual green card, or permanent residence card, can be issued. The issuance process for people living outside of the U.S. is conducted by the U.S. Department of State and begins with the completion of Form DS-260 (“Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application”) to request an interview appointment at the U.S. embassy or consulate.
You have a limited time in which to apply for the Diversity Visa. The clock starts ticking as soon as you are selected in the DV Program. All applications must be submitted by the end of the government’s fiscal year, which falls on September 30. How do you figure out the application deadline? Check the current DV Lottery year. The year is the number that follows the “DV-” in the “DV-XXXX” format. If the current program is DV-2023, then the deadline is September 30, 2023.
Winners are strongly encouraged to submit all paperwork as early as possible. Visas can only be issued during the program’s fiscal year and they are issued mostly on a first-come first-served basis. The longer you wait to complete your application, the less likely you are to get a visa issued.
You will need to provide much more detailed information about yourself (and your family) during the second application round.
First, you will need to prove that you were eligible for the Diversity Visa program. Documents such as birth and/or marriage certificates, education or work credentials, and a passport will be required.
Second, you will need to answer questions about yourself and your family (parents, current and former marriages, children), provide updated photo(s) and biographic information, disclose any criminal or unlawful activity in your past, and make national security attestations. Other documents might be required, too, such as court and prison records, military service records, and police certificates.
Third, after you have submitted all application requirements an interview and medical exam will be scheduled. The interview happens at a U.S. embassy or consulate. You will be contacted to schedule your interview only when a visa number is available for you. Your visa number is given to you at the time you are selected in DV Lottery. Basically, the visa number places you in a queue and you will not be contacted until your number is available. (You can consult the USCIS’s monthly Visa Bulletin for more information about visa numbers.)
If your interview is successful, you will be issued a Diversity Visa, which will be added to a page on your passport.
The Diversity Visa is valid for six months from the date of issue. This means that you must enter the U.S. within six months to secure your green card. (In certain cases, if your medical examination expires sooner, the DV visa may be valid for less than six months.)
Together with the Diversity Visa in your passport, you will be given a sealed packet of documents that you will need to present to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents when you arrive in the U.S.
When you arrive, you will be required to show your Diversity Visa and provide the sealed packet to the agents at the port of entry (usually an airport). You will be admitted at that time into the country as a legal permanent resident (green card holder).
As a green card holder, you have the legal right to live and work in the United States.
Although the process can seem long and complicated, the potential reward is well worth the time and effort. Are you interested in an opportunity to become a lawful permanent resident? USA Green Card can help. Start by completing your initial application for this year’s Green Card Lottery.