Diversity Visa Lottery: Read the Rules,
Avoid the Rip-Offs
If you or someone you know is trying
to get a green card - the right to live in the United
States permanently - be on the lookout for unscrupulous
businesses and attorneys. They'll claim that, for a
fee, they can make it easier to enter the U. S. State
Department's annual Diversity Visa (DV) lottery (also
known as the "green card lottery") or increase
your chances of winning the DV lottery.
Each year, the State Department conducts
a lottery through its DV program to distribute applications
for 50,000 immigrant visas. Winners of the lottery have
a chance to apply for an immigrant visa, which can be
used to enter the U. S. Winners are selected randomly,
and there is no fee to enter the lottery.
Starting in 2003, entries
to the DV lottery must be submitted online at www.dvlottery.state.gov.
(This site is only accessible during the application
period.) Paper entries or mail-in requests will not
be accepted. Lottery entrants must include a passport-style
digital photograph and separate digital photographs
of any spouse and children under 21 years of age. Group
photographs are not allowed. Check with the State Department
for technical requirements of the digital photograph.
Entries are accepted for a limited
time. For the DV-2005 Lottery (to be conducted
in 2003), the application period is November 1, 2003,
through December 30, 2003. Check with the State
Department for entry dates for future DV lotteries.
Entrants may submit only one entry
during any particular DV lottery; those who submit more
than one entry will be disqualified. Spouses may submit
separate entries, however, if each meets the eligibility
requirements. If only one spouse is selected, the other
may enter the country on the Diversity Visa of the winning
The DV lottery has two eligibility
1. The entrant must be from
an eligible country. You must have been born
in an eligible country, or have parents who were born
in eligible countries and who were not residents of
your country of birth, when you were born. For example,
your parents might have lived temporarily in the ineligible
country because of their jobs.
Every year, the State Department
announces the countries whose natives are ineligible
for application. For the DV-2005 lottery,
natives of the following countries are not eligible
to apply: Canada, China (excluding Hong Kong,
Macau, or Taiwan), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El
Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan,
Philippines, Russia, South Korea, United Kingdom (except
Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and
Vietnam. Applicants should check with the State Department
to determine the ineligible countries for future DV
2. Entrants must meet an
education or training requirement. You will
have met the education requirement if you
have a high school education or have successfully
completed a 12-year course of elementary and secondary
education. You will have met the training requirement
if you have at least two years of work experience
within the past five years in an occupation requiring
at least two years of training or experience to perform.
For a list of qualifying occupations, visit http://travel.state.gov/ONET.html.
Green Card Lottery Scams
According to lawyers at the Federal
Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection
agency, some businesses and attorneys misrepresent their
services by saying that:
- they are affiliated with the U.S. government;
- they have special expertise or a special entry
form that is required to enter the lottery;
- their company has never had a lottery entry rejected;
- their company can increase an entrant's chances
of "winning" the lottery;
- people from ineligible countries still are "qualified"
to enter the lottery.
In addition, some companies jeopardize
an entrant's opportunity to participate in the lottery
by filing several entries. These companies also may
charge lottery-winning applicants substantial fees to
complete the application process.
A delay in processing a winner's application
can ruin their chance for a green card because the State
Department selects more winners than there are visas
available. The State Department awards visas to winners
on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition, a
winning application is only valid for one federal fiscal
year (October 1 - September 30): Winners of the DV-2005
lottery must apply for a visa between October 1, 2004,
and September 30, 2005.
Protecting Yourself from Fraud
The FTC says the best way to protect
against green card lottery scams is to understand how
the State Department's lottery works.
For More Information
For details about the
State Department's Diversity Visa lottery, visit www.travel.state.gov
also may call the State Department's Visa Services'
Public Inquiries Branch at 202-663-1225. This number
has recorded information with an option to speak with
a visa specialist during normal business hours. Those
overseas should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or