Lots of people want to come to the US. Those who want to come here these days usually come for one reason: the real cost of goods and services. In the US, to cite one example, the average person parts with two hours worth of pay for a pair of decent shoes, give or take and depending upon a lot of different factors. In Central America, shoes cost a person two days of labor. Multiply that by the number of people in the family and requirements for different types of footwear and you have the wage earners working for perhaps a month just to put shoes on feet. In the US, there are struggles, but those struggles do not seem as bad for people who have had to make ends meet in other places.

There are a few ways to try to enter the US legally. Illegally, of course, there are as many ways as there are people with imagination and chutzpah, but this creates many problems and I don't at all recommend it. Legally, then, a person who wants to come here can be granted a work visa, which is hard to get, or a person can marry a US citizen, who could be hard to find but is as easy to like as anyone else, or you can be granted a visa through the Diversity Lottery. Probability works against you, but it is another way. Many people refer to this as "The Green Card Lottery," but this is a misnomer. Selection by this lottery does not guarantee a Green Card, but rather offers the opportunity to petition for one.

Who can apply?

You can apply for the US State Department Diversity Visa Lottery, or the DV, if you hail from a country that has sent fewer than 50,000 immigrants to the US in the past five years. Additionally, you must possess education at least equivalent to a high school diploma, or work experience of at least two years in a job that takes two years to learn. Let's say a machinist from Zimbabwe has a yen to live in Philadelphia, PA. Well, you need at least Algebra One to be a machinist and Zimbabwe has sent fewer than 50,000 people to the US in the past five years. That machinist qualifies for the Diversity Lottery. Let's say a Professor of Economics from Mainland China wants to fulfill his lifelong dream of living the good life in Dallas, Texas. Kudos on the PhD, my friend, but Mainland China has sent more than 50,000 people to the US in the last five years. Sorry. Try to get someone in the Economics Department at the University of Texas to sponsor you. Let's say an agricultural laborer from Nicaragua has had enough of picking coffee at home and is willing to pick tomatoes in California. Um, well, Nicaragua is on the list of qualifying countries, but did you finish your work at the Collegio? No? Oops. Not qualified.

It seems harsh, since in the US anyone supposedly can become anything with the right determination, but realistically, without certain qualifications a person is doomed to a life of struggle here in the US that can be just as grinding as a life of struggle anywhere else. The truth is that admitting immigrants who are more likely to become a "Burden on the State" doesn't make much sense to the people electing lawmakers.

How do you file an application?

Since its inception in 2003 for the 2005 lottery, all applications must be filed electronically. This means that a person who wishes to file the application must go to the State Department website and complete the online application. During any given year in the months of October and November and the first three days of December, the application is available to anyone with internet access.

The application does not have to be filed by the applicant. A friend or relative, or a hired agent such as an attorney, can certainly enter the data. An applicant should be aware, however, that there are no fees for applying. Any fees paid to anyone for entering the Diversity Lottery are not approved by the State Department. Hiring an attorney or another agent to file the application on your behalf does not improve your chances of selection.

Again, here is a bias in the selection of potential immigrants. No one can apply for this lottery who does not have at least an aquaintance who has a computer with a modem. However, this might be something akin to The Prime Directive in Star Trek. Imagine the future shock suffered by the person who has never seen a computer suddenly landing smack in the middle of a milling crowd of people impatiently braying into cell phones. The language and cultural barriers are difficult enough without a basic paradigm barrier to overcome.

The application must also include a digital photo taken within the last six months. It is best to have this photo professionally taken since a photo studio has the resources to set up the background and crop the picture correctly. It used to be that the photo for Immigration had to present the subject on an angle but with both eyes showing and with the right ear clearly visible, but now, the subject must be looking straight ahead, not smiling, not wearing any kind of a hat except for religious purposes and then the covering cannot obscure any features, and no decorations. Also, the photo cannot be stretched, retouched, or otherwise altered. The photo can be black and white or grey scale, but color is preferred.

If you have a spouse, he or she must apply with you. If you have children, be they natural, adopted, or step, they must also apply with you. Everyone needs to have a separate photo; no family portraits will be accepted. If you have a new child after you file the application, whether by birth or adoption, that child can be included in the visa, but if you "forget" to include a child because you thought he or she wouldn't be coming, that child can't be included in the visa.

How do I know if I won?

First of all, don't sell your cows or liquidate your Nikkei portfolio yet. Millions of people all around the globe apply for this lottery, and only 50,000 will be granted legal permanent residence. Interestingly enough, more than that number will be selected for visas, but a visa is only an opportunity. The State Department assumes that mistakes will be made, deadlines will be missed, people will die, and skeletons will be discovered lurking in lots of closets.

If by chance you are selected, randomly, by a computer located at the Consulate Center in Kentucky, you are notified sometime between May and July of the following year. If you don't hear anything by the end of July, you weren't one of the lucky ones. You are allowed to apply again in October, and good luck to you then, too. If you do hear, it will be by letter. Any notification by email is not legitimate. You have until September 30 of the year following that, in other words fifteen to seventeen months, to apply for legal permanent residence in the US. If you can't get it done by then, you have lost your chance.

And then what?

And then you, and your spouse, and any unmarried children under the age of twenty one can come with you to the United States. Keep in mind that you're still not home free. The same restrictions apply to lottery winners that apply to other candidates for legal permanent residence. You may be denied because you accepted a beer and a chorizo from the FARC, and someone captured the moment on film. If by some unfortunate chance, you have been exposed to HIV or the bacteria that causes Hansen's Disease, you may be denied on health grounds. If you have entered the US illegally and have worked under illegal conditions, or used a stolen identity, you can be denied.

Winning this Diversity Lottery is just the beginning of your quest for Legal Permanent Residence in the US. Once you win, get an attorney to advise you on how to proceed. There are many attorneys who work for very little money and who will help you over difficulties. Good Luck.

Source: US State Department Website.