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The Diversity Visa Lottery Program Becomes Even More Complicated
by Bernard P. Wolfsdorf and Naveen Rahman

On August 1, 2001, the State Department released instructions for the Diversity Visa 2003 Program. The State Department has modified the DV program to clarify its interpretation of the statute and to enhance its ability to combat fraudulent practices. Despite these efforts, the program has become more complicated, continues to be fraught with ill-defined rules and requires counsel to have an intimate knowledge of strategies and regulations.

The new requirements include:


Each person on the application must now attach a 2 inch (50mm) square photo of him or herself and photos of all of listed family members (i.e. spouse and all natural children, as well as all legally-adopted children and stepchildren (under the age of 21years old) - EVEN if the applicant is no longer legally married to the child's parent, the child is not living with the applicant or will not immigrate with the applicant). Group photos will not be accepted. The head of the person photographed must be directly facing the camera and should cover 50 percent of the area. The photographs should be taken in front of a neutral, light-colored background. Photographs may be either color or black and white. The following will not be accepted: photos taken with a very dark or busy background; photos where the person is not in focus; photos in which the subject is wearing a had or glasses with dark lens or which the face is otherwise obscured.


The applicant must personally sign the application, using his/her customary style, as it would appear on the passport. If the applicant chooses to sign in Roman alphabet and that is not his/her native alphabet, he/she must also sign in the native alphabet.

Questions about lottery application signatures have been a permanent fixture in the lottery program. Some consular posts, such as the Embassy in Moscow, are particularly concerned about the signature requirement and have unjustly turned away numerous DV applicants. In past years, questions on the authenticity of a signature were resolved by US government forensics experts, objectively and scientifically. Now, it is reported that Embassy personnel, not trained in forensics, are making such determinations. In other words, subjectivity, arbitrariness, and personal factors, rather than scientific certainty and transparency, often rule the lottery program.

Education or Training

To determine whether a particular occupation is one that requires at least 2 years of training or experience, the State Department will now refer to the Department of Labor's O*Net OnLine database,"

Previously, a Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) of at least a "7" (two to four years of experience) was required for a job to meet the DV requirement. However, jobs with an SVP of "6" which required as much as two years of experience and thereby met DV experience criteria, were not acceptable.

Now the State Department will refer to the O*Net system which uses zones to classify standard vocational training for a particular occupation. Zone 3 comprise of occupations with SVP range of 6-7. Therefore, top of the scale SVP 6 occupations should now be acceptable for DV qualification.

This is an area that will no doubt give rise to disputes about the proper classification of one's experience. For example, the position of "secretary" (excluding legal, medical and executive) is defined by O*Net as Zone 2 (only some preparation needed). Whereas the position "administrative assistant" or "executive secretary" is defined by O*Net as Zone 4 (two to four years of experience).

All other requirements remain the same. For an in-depth study of the Diversity Visa program, see Bernard P. Wolfsdorf, & Naveen Rahman, "The Diversity Lottery - Asians And Latinos Need Not Apply!", 00-9 Immigration Briefings (September 2000).

About The Author

Bernard P. Wolfsdorf, a California State Bar-Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law, currently serves on the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Liaison Committee to the U.S. Department of State. He has held numerous leadership positions in the American immigration law field over the years, including Chair and Treasurer of AILA's Southern California Chapter, Co-Chair of AILA's State Department Liaison Committee, Co-Chair of the California Service Center Liaison Committee, Chair of AILA's Artist's and Entertainer's Visa Committee, and Vice-Chair of AILA's National Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee.

Naveen Rahman graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelors of Arts in International Relations; and magna cum laude from New York Law School with a Juris Doctorate. She was admitted to the California bar in 1999. She practices exclusively in the area of Immigration and Nationality Law. Ms. Rahman is a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.