10/04/2011 08:27 am ET | Updated Dec 04, 2011

The 2013 Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery, AKA The Green Card Lottery

The DV lottery is one of the easiest, relatively quick, and least expensive ways to obtain U.S. resident status. True to its name, the purpose of the law is to diversify our immigrant population. Therefore, it is available only to natives of countries that do not use up the annual immigration quota under our otherwise existing annual numerical limitation system for family and employment-based immigration. Likewise, DV is open only to countries whose natives number less than 50,000 immigrants during the previous five years. Because of the numbers, the eligible countries change from year to year.

Applicants born in the below countries are excluded from the 2013 lottery:

Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada,China (mainland-born) Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, South Korea, The Philippines, The UK (except Northern Ireland) and its territories, and Vietnam.

The DV is managed by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and its U.S. Consulates abroad. The process has two major components: registration for the lottery and claiming the immigrant visa. Registration for the 2013 lottery can be made only online, so it is not necessary to be in the U.S. On the other hand, if you are a successful applicant and in the U.S. in lawful status, you may claim your resident status by filing an Application to Adjust Status. There is no need to process through the consulate. Neither is there a requirement that you have a relative in the U.S., and no Affidavit of Support needs to be signed on your behalf. As explained below, eligibility is based on country of birth coupled with education or work experience.

The registration period begins on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 12:00 p.m. (noon) Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) and ends on Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 12:00 p.m. (noon) EDT. To register, go to . Upon completion of registration, you will be issued a confirmation bearing an identification number. You must keep this in a safe place as you will need it to confirm your status once DOS informs you via email to check your status online.

In addition to country of birth, you will have to provide detailed biographical information about yourself, your spouse and all children as well as upload a photo. See , .
You must further establish that that you have (1) completed a minimum of high school education or its equivalent, (2) have 2 yrs of work experience in an occupation that requires at least 2 years of training or experience, and (3) the work experience was acquired within the past 5 years.

Like the registration, the selection is also made electronically, chosen strictly at random until the total winners are selected, according to a formula of country and world wide geographical limitation. As an example, see the list of selections per region and country for 2012.

The winners for 2013 will likely be announced in the Spring of 2012. Visas will be issued in fiscal year 2013 which will begin on October 1, 2012.

It is important to understand that as soon as you confirm that you have been successful in the process, you should pursue the immigrant visa immediately because it must be completed by the deadline of September 30, 2013. If the deadline is missed, so will the opportunity to immigrate. Also be aware that typically more than 55,000 winners are selected, but only 50,000 visas may be issued, so there is a rush to complete the process. It is a first come, first served basis.

Another good approach is to have both the husband and wife of the household apply as that somewhat increases the chances of selection, even more so if the parties are born in different countries. One year I actually had both the husband and wife win. Of course, only one of them had to claim the DV status as the spouse and all children under 21 are included in the immigration process of the successful applicant.

Now that you are familiar with process, all you need to do is decide whether you want a green card, and if so, follow through. Good luck to all DV applicants.

Content concerning legal matters is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon in making legal decisions or assessing your legal risks. Always consult a licensed attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction before taking any course of action that may affect your legal rights.