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Diversity Green Card Lottery Opens October 4 – "The Cinderella Visa"

by Bernard Wolfsdorf and Rahul Soni

The U.S. green card lottery opens on October 4, 2011 and applications can be submitted until November 5, 2011.  This year the U.S. government will register over 100,000 potential immigrants and issue 50,000 green cards to lucky “winners”.  Unfortunately, as with many government programs, the diversity immigrant visa program is deceptively simple, and has numerous pitfalls.  Rigid technical requirements disqualify many applicants.  So-called lucky “winners” face the biggest challenge after they are notified they have been selected.  Of the 100,021 registrants, slightly more than half will end up disappointed when they discover they are unable to obtain a green card.  Some are mortified when they are refused tourist or student visas because they expressed immigrant intent.  Every year half of the lottery “winners” end up unsuccessful in their quest to attain a green card because of the “lottery within a lottery”.  Hundreds of potential “winners” are stranded because they are unable to make it to the finish line by September 30, the deadline to complete immigrant visa processing.  The DV program is a “Cinderella visa”, which expires at midnight on September 30, the end of the government fiscal year.

To apply for the green card lottery, basic eligibility criteria must be met.  An applicant must have the equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma, defined as, “a formal course of elementary and secondary education comparable to completion of twelve years’ elementary and secondary education in the United States.” “Winners” can also qualify by proving two years of work experience in an occupation, which requires at least two years of education, training, or experience within the past five years. This can be very tricky as an understanding of Department of Labor Occupational Codes is critical to qualifying.  If “winners” do not meet the educational requirement, they can meet this standard by documenting qualifying work experience obtained within the past five years.  Another challenge is the fact that lottery “winners” are sequentially processed based on their rank serial number.  Those with high winning numbers have as little as thirty or sixty days to undergo rigorous medical, security, financial, and other eligibility screening.  Sadly, many with high numbers do not make it.

Every year, our law office receives many calls from devastated “winners” – brokenhearted Cinderellas whose glass slippers were never found.  While not every lottery applicant needs a lawyer, most “winners” will benefit by consulting with an attorney who can help navigate these complex issues.

For an article on some of the complex issues, click here.

About The Author

Bernard P. Wolfsdorf is the past President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Mr. Wolfsdorf has been named the "most highly rated immigration lawyer in the world" by his peers in the 2011 and 20100 editions of International Who's Who of Business Lawyers. "Mr. Wolfsdorf received more votes from clients and peers worldwide than any other lawyer." Mr. Wolfsdorf is a recipient of the AILA Service Excellence Award for providing outstanding volunteer services. The California Edition of Who's Who recognized Mr. Wolfsdorf as "one of the prestigious names in the field" who "knows his stuff back to front." The Chambers Global World's Leading Lawyers for Business guide noted Mr. Wolfsdorf's "outstanding consular law practice" and called him a "cutting-edge thinker." He is listed in 2011 editions of Best Lawyers in America, Martindale Hubbell's Pre-eminent Specialist Directory, Southern California Super Lawyers, Chambers USA and the Chambers Global World's Leading Lawyers for Business. Mr. Wolfsdorf is a California State Bar-Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law.

Rahul Soni is an Entertainment Immigration Lawyer at Wolfsdorf Immigration Law Group in Santa Monica, California. Mr. Rahul graduated from University of Southern California Law School and London School of Economics and Political Science.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.