AFTER YOU WIN THE VISA LOTTERY: STEPS REQUIRED TO GET THE GREEN CARDJanet Rangi
If your name has been drawn in the visa lottery (DV), you must act fast to apply for a green card (U.S. lawful permanent residence). Here’s why, and what steps to take first.
Start by finding out your case number, or “rank number,” which the Department of States (DOS) website will give you. It is crucial because you are allowed to submit your application for a green card as soon as a visa becomes available in your regional category according to your rank number. The lower the rank number, the better, visas start to become available on October 1st of each fiscal year.
To see whether your rank number has been reached, check the latest Department of State Visa Bulletin at www.travel.state.gov. Enter the term: “Visa Bulletin for [month] [year].” The DOS sometimes publishes visa rankings for three months into the future, and USCIS may accept DV adjustment applications 90 days in advance of the actual date that a visa is available (although the visa will not be issued until the rank becomes current).
If your spouse or children will be accompanying you, each of them must file their own green card application. The next big question is where should you file your green card application—at a USCIS office in the United States or at a U.S. consulate outside of the United States?
If You’re Currently Living Outside the United States
If you’re living in a country outside the United States, you’ll file at a local U.S. consulate and attend your visa interview in your home country before entering the United States to claim your permanent residence. This method is called consular processing. Do not attempt to find another way to enter the U.S. to apply for a green card, such as using a tourist visa — that could be considered visa fraud, and disqualify you from receiving the green card.
If You’re Currently Living Outside the United States
The most convenient choice for lottery winners living in the U.S. is probably for you to adjust your status (get your green card) without leaving—in other words, send your application to a USCIS Service Center and attend your interview at a local USCIS office. Once your application is filed, your stay in the United States would be considered legal, and you could apply for permission to work. Should problems arise in your case, you would be able to await USCIS’s decision in the U.S., and potentially file an appeal.
But there’s a huge catch: You are allowed to adjust status only if you’re already in the U.S. legally, that is, on a valid, unexpired visa or other form of permission (with a few exceptions). You might, for example, already be on a temporary visa, such as a student, F-1 visa. If, however, you’re living in the United States with no legal status, or have worked without authorization, or you entered legally without a visa under the Visa Waiver program, you are barred from filing your green card application inside the U.S., unless you fall under an exception based on old laws. (Talk to an attorney for details.)
The Importance of Acting Quickly
Try to submit your green card application in an office that’s not too slow or backed up. If your immigrant visa isn’t issued before the end of the fiscal year for which you were selected, your registration becomes void and you will miss out on your chance for a green card. The deadline is the end of the fiscal year for, and not in, the year you were picked. The government fiscal years begin on October 1 and end on September 30.
Although that gives you just over a year to apply, attend your interview, and receive an approval, that’s actually less time than one might expect. In fact, a year is the typical processing time in many consular and USCIS offices. If even one little thing goes wrong, you could be out of luck.
Another reason to hurry is that the U.S. government selects twice as many winners as there are green cards available. It assumes some of these will either not qualify or will decide not to immigrate after all. If all the winners do, in fact, mail in applications, the green cards will be given on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s possible that even though you win the lottery, if that year’s green card allotment is used up before your own interview is scheduled, you will not receive a green card.
If you have any children who will turn 21 soon, you have yet another reason to want the process to go quickly. Once the child turns 21, he or she 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.
See a lawyer for details of the visa lottery law and a personal analysis of how best to apply for your green card.
Important things to note
Winning the Green Card lottery and obtaining an immigrant visa to enter the United States is not a simple task. You would have taken a lot of efforts to enter the lottery program and winning the lottery shows that you are lucky enough to immigrate to the United States. All the winners of the lottery are not selected for immigrant visas; only the qualified individuals are issued immigrant visas. The immigrant visa will be issued to you with six months validity, before which you must enter the United States and obtain a Green Card.
As a new immigrant in the United States, you will not be assisted by the US government in terms of finding jobs or housing and you will be on your own. Finding a job in the United States is the most important thing for many new immigrants. You can choose a state to live and you can also find a job anywhere in the United States. While finding jobs, remember that you will not be hired in offices that hire only US citizens. Most US employers require a proof of your legal status, such as a Green Card, in the United States. Initially you may use your passport, with the temporary I-551 stamp, as a proof of your lawful status in the United States until you get a Green Card. With that you may be able to find jobs.
As a new immigrant, you can find employment opportunities through your friends or relatives who are already in the United States. The US Federal Government has developed many resources for new immigrants who do not have friends or relatives in the United States, to help them find jobs. Hence you can make use of such resources to get employed in America.
Before you enter the United States, it is better to get to know well about the nation and its states. Most new immigrants get settled in California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Virginia, North Carolina, Alaska, Washington D.C. and Florida. These states are common among immigrants because there are ample job opportunities for new immigrants here. New immigrants with IT background may easily find jobs in Silicon Valley which is a cybercity located in Northern California. Immigrants with no work experience may initially find jobs in restaurant chains such as Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, etc. These chain restaurants are found in almost all the states, and a new immigrant with a 12 year primary and secondary education may find a job in one of these restaurants.
People who have relatives to sponsor them for permanent resident status in the United States may not have difficulties in finding housing and in finding jobs because the sponsoring relative will guide the new immigrant. But the Green Card lottery winners may find it difficult when they enter the United States, as they may not have a finalized plan in terms of housing and employment. They can make use of the resources that are offered by the Federal government to overcome their difficulties. There are some community organizations in America that help the new immigrants to find housing initially.
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