Act Quickly on Diversity Visa Lottery Win, or Lose the Chance for a U.S. Green Card

The U.S. government actually selects more winners than the number of available visas, meaning not every winner can get a green card.

In the annual diversity visa (DV) lottery, the U.S. government actually selects more winners than the number of available visas. That's because it assumes some of these winners will either not qualify or will decide not to immigrate after all. In 2020, for example, nearly 13 million people registered for the lottery. Around 100,000 people are typically selected as supposed winners, despite the fact that only 50,000 green cards are actually available.

If more winners than there are visas go on to submit applications, the green cards (immigrant visas) are given on a first-come, first-served basis. Thus it's possible that, even though you win the lottery, that year's green card allotment will be used up before your own interview is scheduled, and you will not receive a green card.

The sooner you complete your visa application after being selected, the greater your chances of receiving an interview and successfully completing the process before all 50,000 visas are gone.

Be Prepared to Quickly Gather Supporting Documents

It can take time to complete your application forms, gather all the supporting documents, wait for an available interview time, attend your interview, and receive an approval for a U.S. immigrant visa or green card. In fact, a year is the typical processing time for an average immigrant visa case. If even one little thing goes wrong and your case gets delayed, you could be out of luck.

If selected as a winner, the first thing you will need to do is complete your online visa application, Form DS-260. After that, you will receive a follow-up request from the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) for supporting documents.

Your interview will not be scheduled until the KCC receives all the requested documents, so if you gather some of these documents in advance, it can speed up the process and increase your chances of receiving an interview before all 50,000 visas are issued. The Department of State typically requests:

  • birth certificates
  • marriage and divorce certificates.
  • police certificates-from every country you resided in after age 16, and
  • court records, if you have ever been convicted of a crime.

The document requirements can vary from country to country. Also, the Department of State will usually accept only a police certificate issued within the last year, unless it's from a country you have not returned to since the certificate was issued. Each embassy might have its own instructions regarding supporting documents, so check its website. More information can also be found on the Department of State's DV lottery information page.

In case you are selected, you might want to go ahead and gather some of supporting documents you know you will need, like birth, marriage, and divorce certificates. Then if you are selected, even at a later date in the year, you will be more prepared than others and more likely to qualify to schedule your appointment before all the green cards are issued.

Other Reasons to Act Quickly If Selected

If you have any children who will turn 21 soon, you have yet another reason to want the process to go quickly. A child who turns 21 technically loses eligibility for the diversity visa. Fortunately, children have some protection under a law called the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA). This law allows you to subtract from the child's actual age the number of days that went by between the first day people were allowed to register for the lottery that year and the date your registration was selected.

Your registration will become void on September 30, which is the end of the government fiscal year. For example, if you registered for the visa lottery that began in October 2021 ("DV-2023"), your visa can be issued only beginning in October 1, 2022 and must be issued before September 30, 2023. You cannot apply after that (unless you registered and were selected for a subsequent visa lottery).

Beware of Scams

If you are registered for the DV lottery, you might receive emails or letters from scammers telling you to "Act Quickly to Claim Your Green Card," or something similar. If you have any doubts about the source of an email, check the status of your entry at the Department of State's E-DV website.

The Department of State no longer sends notification letters to selectees. Furthermore, any legitimate email regarding your registration will come from a ".gov" Internet address, and will never ask you to send cash, money orders, or wire transfers.

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