Diversity Visa Lottery Winners May Not be Winners After All

The U.S. Department of State announced the 2015 winners of the Diversity Visa Lottery Program on May 1, 2014. More than 100,000 hopeful U.S. immigrants were selected to have the chance to obtain a green card. However, the title “winner” may not be so fitting here. Those selected for the Diversity Visa Program may be unaware that they are not guaranteed a green card.

There are certain requirements the “winners” must be able to meet in order to receive their green card. For example, the principal applicant must have the equivalent of a U.S. high school education, or two years of qualifying work experience in the last five years.

A high school education for this purpose is defined as the “successful completion of a formal course of elementary and secondary education comparable to completion of a 12-year course in the United States.” As only formal courses of study are considered, equivalency certificates, such as the General Equivalency Diploma (GED), are not accepted.

If you are qualifying with work experience, you must have two years of experience in the last five years in an occupation which, by U.S. Department of Labor definitions, requires at least two years of training or experience. This means that the job must be designated as Job Zone 4 or 5 in certain government publications.

If the winner does not have the equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma, they must then meet the two years of qualifying work experience. This is determined by the high standards of the U.S. Department of Labor, through the use of the O*Net Online Database. While the Diversity Visa Lottery Program regulation provides that the occupation must be classified in a Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) range of 7.0 or higher, the State Department’s instructions state that the occupation must be designated as a Job Zone 4 or 5 on the O*Net Online Database. This means that most of the occupations that meet these criteria often require a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree.

Winners also face another challenge in obtaining their green card: The winners are sequentially processed based on their rank serial number. Candidates with a high serial number have a lower chance of being scheduled for an interview. Winners also only have until midnight on Sept. 30, 2014, to complete the processing for their green card.

As a result of these obstacles, less than half of the 100,000 chosen “winners” will actually be issued a green card.

When dealing with complicated immigration issues such as this, one can often benefit from consulting with an immigration attorney. If you have questions regarding the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, please contact one of our immigration attorneys today!

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