Immigration

Time is running out for foreigners to enter the visa lottery for free U.S. green cards

Foreigners only have a few days left to try their luck to get a coveted green card without a sponsor.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, one of the most popular and easiest immigration programs, makes 55,000 immigrant visas available for Fiscal Year 2021.

The electronic enrollment period for the program, which is better known as the American Visa Lottery and is free, ends on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, at noon, but applicants are advised to not wait until the last minute to register.

The application process is simple, too, so it generally doesn’t require the legal services of an immigration lawyer, but there are some strict eligibility requirements to qualify.

Eligibility requirements

First of all, applicants must have been born in qualifying countries. Natives from the following countries are not eligible this 2021 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.

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Additionally, applicants 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’s a fast and easy way for foreign visitors to extend their stay in the U.S.

Don’t wait until last minute

Due to the expected huge volume of entries, State Department officials urge participants not to wait until the end of the period to submit their petitions, because excessive demand later will slow the system down.

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“Do not wait until the last week of the registration period to enter, as heavy demand may result in website delays,” says the Department in its Instructions for the 2021 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2021).

“No late entries or paper entries will be accepted. The law allows only one entry per person during each registration period. The Department of State uses sophisticated technology to detect multiple entries. Individuals with more than one entry will be disqualified.”

Read more: It is hard for immigrants to get green cards and other benefits. These tools help.

Last year, more than 23 million people from around the world — the applicants and their family members or “derivatives” — tried to legally immigrate to the United States and achieve the American Dream through the 2020 visa lottery program, the State Department statistics show.

Winners were selected through a randomized computer drawing from more than 14 million qualified entries received during the 34-day application period last year. Egyptian and Russian citizens won the most U.S. green cards.

How to enter the 2021 visa lottery

Foreign nationals can sign up and submit their electronic entry at dvlottery.state.gov.

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.

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People who already live in the United States with legal non-immigrant status can also participate, provided their country of origin is included.

The following information is required to fill out the form:

▪ Name — last name, first name, middle name — as it appears on your passport

▪ Gender

▪ Date of birth

▪ City of birth

▪ Country of birth

▪ Country of eligibility for the DV-2021 program

▪ Recent photograph (of the applicant, his spouse and children) that meets these requirements

▪ Postal address

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▪ Country of current residence

▪ Phone number (optional)

▪ Email

▪ Highest academic level achieved

▪ Marital status

The new passport requirement

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

Officials said in a document published in the Federal Register that the rule change was 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.

Read more: U.S. government wants to screen immigrants’ social media before granting citizenship

However, there are exceptions, as is the case of Venezuelan citizens, who can apply with expired passports or extensions.

“The Department will accept all Venezuelan passports, valid or expired, so long as it is still considered valid after adding five years to the printed expiration date,” it said in an unclassified guide with frequently asked questions regarding passport requirements for DV-2021.

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How to find out if you won the visa lottery

To check on whether you won the visa lottery, the following is required:

The confirmation number or code issued to you when you registered for the lottery

Your surnames, just as you wrote them when you registered

Your birth year, with all four digits

The authentication code indicated by the system

Participants in the DV-2021 lottery can go to the Entrant Status Check page on the internet starting May 5, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021.

If you or a relative win the lottery, the next step is to submit an application for permanent residence using Form DS-260, and start to prepare for an interview in English.

For those who already reside in the U.S. with legal status, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will be in charge of processing their adjustment of status applications.

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: If it seems like your citizenship or green card is taking too long, here’s how to check

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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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