On the Diversity Visa Lottery & Green Card process

Jul 08, 2015 | 8 minutes read

Tags: blog

Getting permanent residency status in the United States (a.k.a. a Green Card) can be notoriously difficult.
The most popular route for technology workers is to have their employer sponsor the Green Card process after many years (probably at least 5) living in the US on a Visa. In exchange usually an extended term of service is expected with said employer. I went a different route.

Some of the steps involved may have cross-over with non-Diversity Visa cases, and any advice on interviewing at the Dublin Embassy applies for visas of all types - this was my third Embassy Interview, and all three were much the same.

  • It’s called the Diversity Visa.
  • Apply here and here ONLY - many scam websites exist, look for .gov in the URL.
  • Only 1.3% chance, must be from an eligible country
  • No fees until accepted - Anywhere asking for $ is a scam
  • Good luck!

If you are selected, your notice will look like this preview. Take note of your Case Number (CN) - you’ll need this a lot! With only a 1.3% chance, it takes quite a degree of luck. Sorry. Use the Diversity Visa Status Check web site (same as where you applied). Note you will not at any point be notified - in fact, throughout the process the onus is on you to check the status of any part of your application. Use your calendar!

From here, you can hire an immigration attorney do advise you on the process. It’ll be expensive - potentially of the order of a few thousand dollars, but perhaps worthwhile. I can recommend Deirdre O’Brien, who dealt with my non-immigrant visa previously.

I’d like to think I’m somewhat detail orientated, so I figured I could wing it on my own - I found the process a breeze. The steps from here out are well documented, but I’ll reproduce my recollection of these none the less. You also have the option of taking an alternate route to me - “Adjustment of Status” (AoS), meaning if already resident in the United States (as I was), you can process the visa application state-side. I was advised this process would likely result in administrative delays, and Consular Processing (CP) in Dublin was a much safer option. All of the following assumes CP.

This is a lengthly form which you should submit as soon as applications for this become open. The most difficult part of this form is recalling every address you lived at - college residences, that 3 months abroad, anywhere you were resident. Any open questions you may have on this form are best addressed to an immigration attorney, but an alternate option is to trawl immigration forums such as ImmiHelp and Immigration.com for people who have asked this same question. Pasting the text of the DS-260 question in quotes into Google will usually yield results - look for responses from posters with a high post count. This is, of course, guesswork at best - and no replacement for legal advice. Milage may vary - use at your own risk. Be grand.

From this point onwards, you can check status on the CEAC Status Check website. Your Case Number is the CN above without any leading zeros - for example, DV201500001234 would become DV20151234.

This step is very well documented. In Ireland, “Police Certificates” are required. This should be your first port of call, as I found it rather difficult to get through to my local Garda Station. I had to resort to having my mother walk into the station while I was away, and request it. The certificate is little more than a letter stating you have not been convicted of anything which shows in the PULSE system. Mine was written in Comic Sans. Genuinely.

The only proof of education required is your Irish Leaving Certificate document (or international equivalent). I brought my B.A., along with proof of qualifying work experience, but it was not even requested. The only “surprise” document I had to produce (which, although not listed, I had brought just-in-case) was proof of means to support myself. I brought bank account statements for all of my U.S. accounts, along with an employment contract. If you do not have sufficient means, I believe something known as an “Affidavit of Support” is required - that’s the extend to my knowledge. Google is your friend :-)

Ensure your passport is valid for a decent length of time, and there are no cracks or damage to the document, especially on the biometric photo page.

This is the most painful wait, as it may be some time until you are called for interview. For me, this period was over 12 months. Watch the Diversity Visa bulletins, which should give you ~2 months notice as to when your visa CN will become “current”. The status check website will tell you once selected for interview - I don’t recall receiving any other notification. The Kentucky Consular Center may also be able to tell you over the phone when your interview date is some weeks in advance upon providing your CN. You’ll also need to schedule your medical. In Ireland, this takes place in the Blackrock Clinic. This is expensive - some €395. At the time I applied, it was only possible every Wednesday, and it needs to take place at least 7 days before your actual visa interview, ideally longer. Once completed, the medical is valid for 6 months - you need an interview date within this period. Bring any records of immunisations you may have, but if these are missing, fear not - the fee includes any top-up shots that may be required.

You’ll need to bring the documents from your medical exam to the visa interview, along with all other supporting documentation you prepared. I wore a suit to all my interviews - and I never wear a suit, I generally loose credibility in a suit! For this, I made an excpetion. When visiting the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, you can park on the street in Ballsbridge for up to 3 hours. Top up the meter to the full 3 hours - you may have a long wait, and it beats getting clamped. Don’t bring any bags to the embassy if possible (it’ll save you hassle), and remember to bring some (paper) reading material. All electronic items will be held at the guardhouse. You’ll likely queue outside the embassy along with the other applicants for that day. You won’t be admitted into the embassy until the time of your interview “slot”, possibly thereafter - don’t panic, it’s more of a time slot than an exact appointment. Another surprise to many is the interview is conducted at a glass screen much alike a visit to the tax office. You’ll first pay the immigrant visa fee (in this case, $375), then wait to be called for interview. Lastly, the staff at the Dublin Embassy have never been anything but incredibly helpful to me in my previous dealings. It should go without saying that you should present yourself incredibly politely & courteously.

Once complete, the Consular Officer will likely be able to tell you if your application was a success, and within what timeline to expect your passport to be returned. You can use the CEAC status check to track progress here also. They will also present you with a sealed envelope which you will be told not to open.

At this point, things didn’t go according to plan for me. The Federal Government system for processing visas went offline for 3 weeks, causing extreme delays to the processing of all cases. Hopefully this doesn’t happen to you!

You need to enter the US within 6 months. Thankfully all flights in Ireland pre-clear at Point-of-Entry (Shannon and Dublin). Leave an extra 30 mins to process compared to normal. When you present to U.S. pre-clearance, you will present your Immigrant Visa in your passport, along with the envelope from the embassy. You’ll be likely taken aside, and be told to wait - it took me roughly 15 mins. They will apply a stamp to your passport, and this becomes your Green Card until the physical card arrives in the post.

I managed to save quite a lot of money by processing this without the assistance of an attorney, but it takes work. If resident in the US, and processing via CP, expect to take at least one transatlantic flight booked at late notice and at great cost. I had two, driving up costs.

Standard fees:
Blackrock Clinic Medical: $436 (€395) Diversity Visa Fee (payable at embassy): $375 (physical) Green Card USCIS Application Fee: $165

Total: $976

Flights & Misc (Recall I was processing this while living in the United States via the embassy in Ireland, hence increased costs) Return flight 1: $1,004 (including last-minute change) Return flight 2: $769 Bottle of Hendricks Gin (stress relief): $44

Grand total: $2,793

That’s it! Hopefully this recollection is of use to some folks. A huge help to Rob Dougan, who pointed out the Diversity Visa to me. Happy to answer any questions about the process in the comments below.