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Immigration to America: Winning the Green Card Lottery

Updated on October 26, 2017
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Tessa left her home country for Lesotho in 1973. Since then, she has travelled extensively, and has no plans to stop.

The Green Card Is Actually Pink

Immigration to America: The Diversity Visa Lottery

I never met the usual qualifications to immigrate to America. I didn’t have immediate family in the U.S. I didn’t have a few million dollars to start a business in order to employ Americans. I didn’t have a rare or highly-desired qualification, and I wasn’t a famous person with some rare talent. I also wasn’t a particularly famous political refugee. The abovementioned points are all the basic requirements for lawful admittance to the country.

However, in 2002, while living in London, I did win a green card in the Diversity Visa Lottery. I entered the lottery directly after 9/11 on the assumption that there was so much anger as a result of Bush going into Iraq that there would probably be a reduction in the number of entries for the 2003 intake. I don't know whether that was what happened or not, but I do know that, in April 2003, I received a letter from USCIS saying that I had won a green card in the Diversity Visa Lottery. Each year, the USA allocates somewhere between 50,000 and 55,000 green cards as a result of the lottery.

Shortly After Arriving in San Francisco in 2003.

My daughter and myself shortly after arriving in San Francisco in 2003.
My daughter and myself shortly after arriving in San Francisco in 2003.

Qualifications Required by Entrants

There are various criteria that entrants need in order to qualify. Entrants need a high school graduation certificate equivalent to the American high school diploma, together with two years work experience. Alternatively, they need two years of experience in a particular trade. This changes every year. The 2019 list of occupations can be found on the website.

It's important that the winner of the green card lottery either finds a sponsor to guarantee a debt-free three years, or that the winner has a job on arrival. Only those over twenty one years qualify, but spouses as well as children under twenty one can accompany the winner.

How to Submit an Entry Form for the USA Diversity Lottery

Only Citizens From Certain Countries Can Enter

The official US policy is that citizens from countries whose people don’t often immigrate to the USA can enter. Citizens from countries which send many people to the USA do not qualify to enter. As most immigrants come from the same countries, it is easier to list the countries which do not qualify.

They are Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland), and Vietnam.

Diversity Lottery Entry Date

The lottery is open for one month of the year. It is generally October. Entries have to reach the Kentucky Immigration Office somewhere between the opening date and the closing date. The date on which the entry was sent is irrelevant. If the entry arrives before the relevant date or after the relevant date, the entry is disqualified. If you win, you should hear by April or May the following year.

Entry to Diversity Lottery Is Free, but Attorneys and Immigration Organizations Ask You to Pay

Entry is free, and entry forms can be found on the USCIS site. They should be completed with factual, accurate information. That information is verified at the subsequent interview.

There are various immigration attorneys and organisations that will be happy to submit the form for you - for a fee. It takes two or three minutes to complete. You will need approximately $3,000 per family member in order to pay the charges involved.

Walking You Through the Interview Process

The Initial Interview After You Win

The missive stating that you have won also states that you will be contacted for an interview. I was notified in April and received my interview date in about October for November. I had to arrive in America by the following July.

At the interview you are asked for proof of qualifications, proof of work experience, and a police record for every country where you have lived. You will also need some vaccinations which the staff at the consulate will arrange for you. An appointment with a state doctor will be arranged for you, and you will be tested for various conditions. If, for example, you are HIV positive, you will not be given permission to enter the country. All interviews and medical examinations will take place at the consulate. Consulates are the business arm of a country, while embassies are the political and diplomatic arm.

If you have a partner and children, they will undego the same process.

Generally, the items listed below will be required at your interview.

Copy of the principal applicant’s selection letter for the diversity visa lottery from DOS

Copy of birth certificate

Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record

Two passport-style photos

Certified copies of court records (if the individual has been arrested)

Copy of the receipt from DOS for the diversity visa lottery processing fee

Applicable fees

This may also vary from year to year and you will need to check the website for the particular list of documentation required for the year in which you enter.

Costs Involved

You will need to pay for a medical examination for yourself and for each member of the family who accompanies you. There are certain diseases which will disqualify you from entry. You will also pay for visas for each member of the family. At the time, it cost me upward of $3000 for my daughter and myself.

Flights and international relocation costs are expensive. It will be good strategy to have sufficient emergency money for at least a year after arrival. Unless you have a lot of money, it is probably better to chose a small city to live in initially.

Arrive-By Date

You will need to arrive in the United States by a particular date. It is generally eighteen months from the date you entered the Diversity Lottery. If you do not arrive by that date, your visa to enter the United States of America is revoked. You will be searched, and your luggage will be subject to a rigorous inspection when you arrive.

This is the right place to learn about the Green Card Diversity Lottery. Every other website charges you and takes advantage of you.
This is the right place to learn about the Green Card Diversity Lottery. Every other website charges you and takes advantage of you. | Source

Upon Arrival

You will need to apply for a social security card plus acquire a driver’s license or an official ID card. Your green card will be sent to you after you arrive in the U.S. For the first few months, while you await the arrival of your green card, you will need to use the stamp in your passport to verify that you are a legal resident of the U.S.

Once your green card arrives, you will need to have it with you at all times while in the USA.

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Green Card Limitations, Permanent Residence, and the Reality of Life in the U.S.

Immigrants with green cards are called permanent residents. They are not yet citizens. After five years, they can apply for citizenship. This involves a test and swearing allegiance to the USA.

There are three limitations to remaining a permanent resident. The first is that you do not qualify for various social welfare payments, and the second is that you cannot vote. The third is that you cannot travel freely outside the United States for any length of time without losing your green card. If you can afford to pay a few thousand dollars and give a good reason, you can remain outside the country for a period of up to two years.

Green cards have to be renewed every ten years. This means being fingerprinted (again) and paying a fee. You will also need to be photographed again. If you do not have sufficient money, you can apply for a reduced fee.

Two thirds of immigrants do not apply for citizenship. They stay on as permanent residents. Reasons for this include that some do not speak English and cannot pass the test in English, but the biggest reason given is the expense attached to the test.

No welfare or freebies are available for immigrants. America is not immigration friendly towards the poor. You will need sufficient resources to cover your own medical expenses as well as other emergencies.

There are also various protections, normally available in the first world, that are missing from the USA. These include protections for workers, legal assistance, inexpensive or free medical services, etc. There is normally also a safety net in terms of finance available in other first world countries which is not available in the United States.

I hope this information is helpful to anyone and everyone who is considering entering the Green Card Diversity Lottery. Good luck!

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