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USA Greencard Lottery opened again

Saturday, October 9, 2010 by

A screenshot of the Seal of the USA Department of State

DV Program opened

Even though we do not deal with immigration, we know that the famous “Greencard Lottery” is a bit mysterious topic for international students. And since it just opened again for registration, let’s have a look at it in the interest of educating our readership.

While most people heard that there is something like a greencard lottery, they have no idea if even exists, or if it’s some sort of a scam. Well no, it’s real. So real, in fact, that it’s operated by the USA Department of State! Of course it is not officially called “greencard lottery”. It’s called Diversity Visa Lottery, or Diversity Visa Program.

This year, the registration runs from noon October 5, 2010 through noon November 3, 2010. (GMT-4)

The purpose of the Diversity Visa Program is to encourage natives of nations, which are underrepresented within the population of the USA, to immigrate, and thus help keep the USA the diverse melting pot of nations that it traditionally is.

This immediately tells us, that the program is not opened for natives of all countries. If there is a plenty of former citizens of your country in the USA and they keep immigrating en masse without much need for an encouragement, chances are that you are not eligible to register. The following countries are currently NOT eligible:

BRAZIL, CANADA, CHINA (mainland-born), COLOMBIA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, ECUADOR, EL SALVADOR, GUATEMALA, HAITI, INDIA, JAMAICA, MEXICO, PAKISTAN, PERU, PHILIPPINES, POLAND, SOUTH KOREA, UNITED KINGDOM (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and VIETNAM. Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible.

In addition to being a native of an eligible country, you yourself have to be eligible too. The most important part is working in  a qualifying occupation. This means one, which is classified in Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) range of 7.0 or higher. You can find how is your occupation classified here.

The Diversity Program is usually allotted 50,000 immigrant visas, with a few thousand reserved for other purposes than the lottery. It is useful to know though, that the lottery actually selects more than 50,000 winners! In some years it used to select as many as 100,000. Why this is so? Partly some winners will turn out to actually be ineligible, and others change their mind and will not pursue the immigration to the USA. What this means though, is that once you are notified that you are one of the winners, you need to rush to your nearest US Embassy to claim your right to apply for the immigrant visa!

Another thing you should be aware of, is that you will not actually win the green card! As an international student, you know that some visas require you to have a so-called “visa sponsor” in order to apply. The US immigrant visas are one of those. If you, for example, get married in the USA, you wife or husband can become a sponsor of your application for the green card and write your petition. So having nobody like that, what you win in the green card lottery is a replacement of the petition from your non-existent visa sponsor. With that in hand, you can go to apply for the US immigrant visa.

So how does it work?

  1. Register for the lottery
  2. Wait
  3. If you get selected, you get notified
  4. Go to the US Embassy and start your immigrant visa application
  5. Collect the rather massive file of required documents, including medical examination by a US Embassy-appointed physician.
  6. Arrange your future job and accommodation in the USA and get a proof of it.
  7. Pay the fees and apply.
  8. Once you receive your immigrant visa, you will be required to actually leave for the USA within a few months.

After your arrival in the USA, you will visit http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis and will apply for permanent residency, a proof of which is called the “green card”, even though it’s not actually green.

After that, you will find yourself in an interesting state of limbo, when you can’t leave the USA without a very pressing reason and a fair bit of paperwork. Why? Because you couldn’t return! You don’t yet have the permanent residency card that would allow you to enter the USA at any time. And you can no longer get the normal non-immigrant visitor visa to facilitate your entry, because you are in fact an immigrant. Getting the green card can take quite some time, with some people waiting up to two years, which can make this situation rather unpleasant.

What people also often don’t know, is that the permanent residency is not actually terribly permanent! If you leave the USA for more than 6 months without a special permit, you will lose your green card! Why? Well, the green card is a permanent residency permit, and after 6 months abroad, you are no longer considered residing in the USA permanently. Exceptions exist, such as if you are abroad working for the US military, but they are indeed exceptions.

Then after 5 years of permanent residency in the USA, you are considered properly “naturalized”, and provided you did nothing wrong, you can apply for becoming a US citizen through naturalization. Again, there’s a catch. If you leave the USA for even a few weeks during those 5 years, you lose a good deal of your already accumulated naturalization, in fact you can easily erase all of it. The same happens with a sufficient number of shorter trips. So careful with those travels abroad.

Once you receive your certificate of naturalization, you become an American. You can travel freely, in fact you can even live abroad, if you so desire, without losing your citizenship. You can only lose your citizenship obtained through naturalization by committing select serious crimes, such as treason.

Well, and this, in a nutshell, is it. Oh and keep in mind that we are not immigration lawyers and this post is intended only for initial introduction into this topic, not as an expert advice!

Get the instructions here: http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1318.html

P.S. The Diversity Visa Program is ABSOLUTELY FREE! And it is designed for individuals to register directly over the Internet. So don’t fall for various “agents” who will offer you participation in the lottery for a fee.


2 Responses to “USA Greencard Lottery opened again”
  1. Sophia says:

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    Hope you are doing great!
    This is SophiaChen from China mainland, I would like to know that why Chiina mainland-born citizens do not have the rigtht to register for The USA Greencard Lottery , if you could explain to me, I would be very much appreciated!

    Thannk you so much for your kindness!

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