You Have Won the Green Card Lottery-What Next?
The events that follow the winning of the DV Green Card Lottery are unknown to most people. Many believe that once you win a green card, you will be entitled to a permanent residence in the U.S and will live and work in the country. However, before that happens, an elaborate process must be involved.
What the ‘winners’ of the Diversity Visa Lottery actually “win” during the first step of the application is an opportunity to request a permanent residence card.
For instance, while other hopeful immigrants qualify to request a green card based on employment or family ties, selectees in the DV Lottery usually get the chance to request their green card by through selection in the visa lottery. Therefore, those who “win” in the first round of the application are usually just “selected” to apply for a green card, based on their qualifications.
The ‘winners’ selected to apply for permanent residence card are then subjected to a second application process, which is usually more engaging that the first process.
As you noticed during application, the list for the initial Green Card Lottery application requirements was quite short, and the application itself demanded no documentation, except the photo. 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 staying in the U.S. under a nonimmigrant or any legally acceptable status when they are selected, the second application is just an easy process. They can simply adjust their current visa status to permanent residence, usually while remaining in the country. This 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.
Winners Living Outside the US
Winners living outside the US are subjected to a little more complicated. For them, the immigration process for involves issuance of an immigrant visa, popularly known as Diversity Visa. This is done through a US embassy in the country where the selectee is currently staying. Sometimes, it is done in a regional location. Once issue, this Diversity Visa 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, known as 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.
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.
- detailed information about yourself (and your family)
- Documents such as birth and/or marriage certificates and education or work credentials will be required.
- provide updated photo(s)
- biographic information
- any criminal or unlawful activity in your past
- national security attestations
- court and prison records, military service records, and police certificates.
- 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.
Validity of a Diversity Visa
Upon a successful interview, you will be given a Diversity Visa, which will be attached to a page on your passport.
The Diversity Visa is valid for six months from the date of issue, implying that you must enter the U.S. within six months to secure your green card.
How Do You Enter the US After Winning the Lottery
With a Diversity Visa in your passport, you will be granted a sealed packet of documents which you will need to present to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents upon arrival in the U.S.
Once you arrive, you will show your Diversity Visa and provide the sealed packet to the agents at the port of entry, in most cases an airport. At the release of the sealed envelope, you will be admitted into the US 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.