If you follow the annual diversity visa (green card) lottery sponsored by the U.S. State Department, you may be surprised by their lack of transparency. As incredulous as it seems, they refuse to provide visa lottery registration statistics without a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. This is hardly what I expected from Obama’s new open government initiative.
Even worse, the KCC does not release the rules of the upcoming lottery until just days before the opening registration date. This places a huge burden on green card lottery services who must upgrade their software and web sites to meet the new requirements within the narrow timeframe of the official announcement and the start of the 60-day lottery registration period. For example, in 2008 the specifications for photographs changed. Those who used a lottery service before the official announcement may have submitted photographs that would have been rejected by the government, rendering their application invalid.
Although there are many fraudulent domestic and international firms, there are also some very good green card lottery services that provide an essential service to those who wish to emigrate to the U.S. at a reasonable cost. Candidates include those from poorer countries with slow or corrupt postal mail delivery, those who are planning to move or have English language problems, and those who want the convenience of entering any time of year.
Here in New Mexico, one of the primary demographic groups of lottery entrants are international students attending the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, and other institutions. However, the National Association of International Educators (formerly the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors or NAFSA) refuses to endorse or support the lottery, ostensibly because their role is to educate foreign students to return to their home countries — not to become U.S. permanent residents or citizens.
The visa lottery is administered by the Kentucky Consular Center, a division of the U.S. State Department, located in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Since early May they have been mailing notices and forms in a large white envelope to all 100,000 lottery winners (or the winner ‘s lottery service). All winners of the calendar year 2009 lottery (DV-2011) will be notified by postal mail, but never by e-mail, no later than early July, 2010. Of course if you are from a country with slow mail service, your letter may take another month to arrive.
The good news is that if you kept your confirmation number you can check on-line to see if you won last year’s lottery. Beginning July 1, 2010, you can access www.dvlottery.state.gov/ESC/ and enter your confirmation number and personal information.
The lottery is free to those who enter themselves at the official U.S. government web site during the open registration period. Last year the first day to file was October 2, 2009. The last day to register was November 30, 2009. We don’t expect the dates or eligible countries to change significantly this year, but you can never be sure.
MyGreencard.com is a website dedicated to the diversity visa lottery. They recently published a comprehensive table with green card lottery dates and deadlines for DV-2010, DV-2011, and DV-2012. It includes dates of winners interviews, the last day to receive a visa, the last day to enter the U.S., and much more.