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Immigration & Naturalization Law

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Diversity Visa Program

Immigration policy is one of the most talked about matters in the country. Politicians, pundits, and others routinely weigh in on who should be allowed to come into the United States and who should be able to remain in the United States. For prospective immigrants, the issues involved are very personal. They want to know how they can immigrate into the country legally. One way is through a program called Diversity Visa.


The program, also referred to as the Green Card Lottery, is made available to 50,000 individuals every year. Those individuals have to be from countries that have had low rates of immigration to the U.S. in the previous 5 years. Low rates of immigration are defined for the purpose of the program as having sent 50,000 or less immigrants to the United States across the preceding 5-year period.


Those selected for the program, which is administered by the State Department’s National Visa Center, are chosen randomly from those who qualify. They win the opportunity to apply for permanent resident status in the United States. If that status is granted, they will be able to work and live in the U.S. on a permanent basis.

Additionally, they can bring their spouses to the country as well. If they have unmarried children under 21, they can bring them as well. Because of these provisions, the program is a way for whole families to immigrate here.


Being from a country that sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the United States is one requirement for eligibility, but it isn’t the only one. To get a Diversity Visa, applicants have to also have a high school diploma. Typically, this requirement means having completed 12 years of elementary and secondary education between early childhood and young adulthood. Alternatively, they may have had two years of work experience in a qualifying occupation. That work experience must have been in the last 5 years. It also must have been in a skilled labor job, defined for the purposes of the program as a job that requires at least 2 years of experience or training to do.


Once selected for the Diversity Visa program, immigrants get a permanent resident card. That is also referred to as a Green Card, which is why many refer to the program as the Green Card Lottery. The card verifies that the immigrant who has it is in the country legally, with a right to live and work here. As long as they fulfill the conditions of the program and don’t break any laws, immigrants with permanent resident cards are not subject to deportation. They can apply for jobs and buy homes and be involved in community activities just like everyone else who is here legally.


To apply for a Diversity Visa, those who want to live and work in United States should fill out an Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form. This can be secured from the U.S. Department of State. There is no charge to download and complete it. Applicants who are awarded a Diversity Visa will be notified by mail.

Instructions for applying are published by the Department of State every year before the lottery. The instructions are released to the public via press releases. They are also published in the Federal Register.

It is critical for applicants to follow every part of the instructions correctly. The State Department affirms that millions of applicants get rejected simply because they failed to follow directions. This is one of the reasons why it can be extremely helpful for applicants to get an attorney to guide them as they complete the application. Their attorney can help to make sure that their application is filled out completely and correctly, and that they’re following all the rules.

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