What happens if I win the diversity visa and I’m in the United States?
Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. The diversity visa happens every year, so people register in usually October, they find out the following May, and then once the next fiscal year starts, they’re placed in line and they’re given a chance to get a Green Card to get lawful permanent residence in the United States.
So the diversity visa is for people that are from underrepresented countries. So if you take the top 20 countries of which there’s a lot of those people, take the top 20 countries, China, India, they’re not eligible for the diversity visa, but people from smaller countries are eligible for the diversity visa. And the question is, if I get selected for the diversity visa and I’m in the United States, what happens?
Now, I was looking at these statistics the other day, the vast majority of diversity visa winners are outside of the United States. So they are going to have to consular process, which means they’re going to have to file their paperwork here in the States, get their case number, and then pay the fees and then go through the embassy of the country in which they’re living.
For people who are in the United States though they can adjust their status. So last year we had a case for some clients who were on the F-1 student visas and the husband won the diversity visa so they were able to actually adjust their status, just like somebody would based on marriage in the United States, based on having won that diversity visa.
Now, these cases are tricky because you only have that one fiscal year to get your case approved. And if you don’t get a case approved by September 30th of that fiscal year it’s as if you were never selected in the lottery.
So that’s one thing to keep in mind. The other thing is that you not everybody can apply on that first day that the diversity visa season opens in that fiscal year.
You are basically put in these different quadrants around the world and when your number becomes current you’re given sort of a line number and when your number becomes current then you can actually file the application to adjust status.
So the one good thing in our experiences is that USCIS has so far been pretty sympathetic to people who win the diversity visa who are in the United States.
They sort of put them on our priority fast track for an interview and for a final decision. So we’ve had people have their submissions in July or August and still get an interview and a case approved in time. But that is a real case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease, and it takes a lot of doing to pull that off. And obviously you’re not going to want to make any mistakes on the application because you can’t afford to make any mistakes.
So the diversity visa is a great thing but you can adjust. The one last thing I wanted to mention is that you’re going to have to be in proper status.
If you are out of status and you win the diversity visa you’re either going to have to consular process or you might not be able to get your Green Card at all because you can’t adjust status in the United States if you are out of status like you could if you were married to a U.S. citizen.
That rule does not apply to diversity visa winners. So if you’re in the United States and you’re out of status and you win the diversity visa you probably need to talk to an immigration lawyer. If you win the diversity of visa and you’re in the United States you should probably talk to an immigration lawyer.
But if you’re out of status you definitely should because it’s going to be pretty tricky to get you a Green Card to get you lawful permanent residence in the United States.
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