The 2013 green card lottery winners were announced on May 1, 2012, extending invitations to thousands of eager U.S. immigrants around the world. For the 2012 lottery, the Department of State notified 100,021 applicants that they were the lucky “winners”. Unfortunately, as with many government programs, the diversity immigrant visa program is deceptively simple, and has numerous pitfalls. Rigid technical requirements disqualify many applicants. So-called lucky “winners” face the biggest challenge after they are notified they have been selected. Of the 100,021 registrants in the 2012 diversity lottery, slightly more than half were disappointed to discover they were unable to obtain a green card. Some are mortified when they are refused tourist or student visas because they expressed immigrant intent. The disappointment is certain to continue for tens-of-thousands recently announced 2013 lottery “winners”.
Every year half of the lottery “winners” end up unsuccessful in their quest to attain a green card because of the “lottery within a lottery”. Hundreds of potential “winners” are stranded because they are unable to make it to the finish line by September 30, the deadline to complete immigrant visa processing. The DV program is a “Cinderella visa”, which expires at midnight on September 30, the end of the government fiscal year.
To apply for the green card lottery, basic eligibility criteria must be met. An applicant must have the equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma, defined as, “a formal course of elementary and secondary education comparable to completion of twelve years’ elementary and secondary education in the United States.” “Winners” can also qualify by proving two years of work experience in an occupation, which requires at least two years of education, training, or experience within the past five years. This can be very tricky as an understanding of Department of Labor Occupational Codes is critical to qualifying. If “winners” do not meet the educational requirement, they can meet this standard by documenting qualifying work experience obtained within the past five years. Another challenge is the fact that lottery “winners” are sequentially processed based on their rank serial number. Those with high winning numbers have as little as thirty or sixty days to undergo rigorous medical, security, financial, and other eligibility screening. Sadly, many with high numbers do not make it.
Every year, our law office receives many calls from devastated “winners” – brokenhearted Cinderellas whose glass slippers were never found. While not every lottery applicant needs a lawyer, most “winners” will benefit by consulting with an attorney who can help navigate these complex issues.
For an article on some of the complex issues, click here.