Immigration

One of the simplest ways to get a green card is back. Here’s what foreigners need to do

Up to 55,000 foreign nationals and their families from around the world will have a chance to legally immigrate to the United States and achieve the American Dream with a green card in hand in 2021, thanks to one of the simplest visa programs.

The U.S. State Department, which administers the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, better known as the visa lottery, announced Thursday that it will go ahead with the lottery for 55,000 diversity visas available for Fiscal Year 2021.

The winners will be drawn from random selection and there is no cost to register.

The entry period for the 2021 green card lottery starts on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, and runs until Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, the department said in an instructions guide published by the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

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The Diversity Visa program provides permanent resident visas to foreign citizens in countries with low immigration rates to the United States in the previous five years.

Applicants must meet simple but strict eligibility requirements to qualify, according to the State Department, which distributes the green cards among six geographical regions.

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Applicants for the DV-2021 lottery must meet two key requirements before submitting their entries:

First, the foreigner must have been born in qualifying countries. Natives from these countries are not eligible this period: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

He or she also must have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent, or two years’ work experience over the past five years in an eligible field that requires at least two years of training.

Read more: Here are some of the worst mistakes immigrants make applying for legal papers

More than 23 million people — the applicants and their family members or “derivatives” — tried to legally immigrate to the U.S. through this year’s DV-2020 diversity lottery, government statistics show.

The two countries that won most immigrant visas were Egypt and Russia, with 5,568 and 5,118 selectees, respectively.

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How to enter the 2021 visa lottery

Foreign nationals can sign up and submit their electronic entry at dvlottery.state.gov when the period opens, and complete the entry form for free.

Candidates should do this early in the registration period, authorities said, because excessive demand later will slow the system down.

This year the sudden wave of visa hopefuls checking on their entries crashed the web page several times.

After registering online, the green card hopeful will see a confirmation screen containing his or her name and a unique confirmation number a person must print to verify if he or she was chosen. Entrant Status Check will be available on the website from May 5, 2020, through September 30, 2021.

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Although most of the lottery winners reside outside the United States, some are already living here with non-immigrant or other legal status, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, the agency that processes adjustment of status applications for this last group.

Read more: The U.S. government is targeting hundreds of thousands who have overstayed their visas

A new hurdle

For the first time since the program was established 30 years ago to boost immigration to the United States, this year foreigners are required to have a valid, unexpired passport, to be able to participate.

Previously, prospective immigrants didn’t need a valid passport to register for the program, although they did need to get one after they won their draw. It was one of the documents they would need to bring to the the interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate — one of the final steps before receiving their diversity visas.

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The State Department explained recently in a document published in the Federal Register that the rule change is needed to curb the high number of fraudulent enrollments in the program, because sometimes fraudulent organizations submit entries for individuals without their consent, among other scams.

“We strongly encourage you to complete the entry form yourself, without a ‘visa consultant,’ ‘visa agent,’ or other facilitator who offers to help. If someone helps you, you should be present when your entry is prepared so you can provide the correct answers to the questions and retain the confirmation page and your unique confirmation number,” the department advised applicants on Thursday.

Daniel Shoer Roth is a journalist covering immigration law who does not offer legal advice or individual assistance to applicants. Follow him on Twitter @DanielShoerRoth. The contents of this story do not constitute legal advice.

Read more about legal and immigration issues in Spanish at AccesoMiami.com

Read more: It’s not so hard for an immigrant to become a U.S. citizen. Here’s what you have to do

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Daniel Shoer Roth es un galardonado autor, biógrafo y periodista con 20 años en la plantilla de el Nuevo Herald, donde se ha desempeñado como reportero, columnista de noticias y actual productor de crecimiento digital. También es coordinador de AccesoMiami.com, una guía sobre todo lo que necesitas saber sobre Miami, asuntos legales e inmigración.
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