Applicants who win the diversity visa lottery can extend that benefit to their spouses and children (who are under 21 years old and unmarried). These spouses and children are called "derivatives."
In order for a spouse or child to get a diversity visa (an immigrant visa that leads to a U.S. green card), the person must have been listed on the primary applicant’s online State Department application. If you are planning to apply for the lottery, this article will help you make sure to get the right people properly entered on this application, and provide some tips about who is truly eligible.
Entering Your Spouse and Children’s Information on the Online Diversity Visa Application
Your application will need to include the name, date, and place of birth for your spouse and all of your non-U.S.-born children. This includes all adopted children and step-children.
You must list a child even if you are no longer married to his or her parent. You must include your spouse's information even if you are planning to get a divorce. You are not required to list a spouse or child who is already a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (green card holder); but it’s a good idea to do so, particularly if you have any doubt about the person’s U.S. immigration status.
If you neglect to include a spouse or child, he or she will not be eligible for a visa. In fact, if you do not list your spouse and all children who are unmarried and under 21 at the time of your online diversity visa application, then you will be disqualified and everyone listed in the application will be denied visas at the time of the visa or green card interview.
The fact that you have listed a family member on your application does not mean that he or she must come to the United States with you. Any person listed on the application has the choice to remain behind.
Keeping Children Eligible Through the Visa Interview
As mentioned above, children must be under 21 to qualify for a green card based on the diversity visa. But what if a child of yours will turn 21 before the application process (which may take several months) is completed?
The child may still be able to get a diversity visa, based on a law called the “Child Status Protection Act,” or CSPA. You will need to count the number of days between the start of the visa lottery application period and the date the applicant is selected. Then subtract this amount of time from the child's age on the date he or she is able to get a visa.
Also important is that your children must remain unmarried until they have become U.S. permanent residents. That means through the visa interview, and right up until they enter the U.S. with their immigrant visas, when they become permanent residents upon entry. Remind any children who are considering marriage of this fact. More than a few young people’s immigration chances have been destroyed by last-minute marriages.
Submitting DV Applications for Both Spouses in a Couple
Both married partners can, if they are both natives of a qualifying country, submit an entry into the visa lottery. This is strategically important because, if either is selected, the other can get a visa through the winner. It basically doubles your chances of winning.
The U.S. government now recognizes same-sex marriages for immigration purposes. Beginning with Diversity Visa Lottery (DV-2015) with its entry period beginning on October 1, 2013, same-sex married couples can now list each other as spouses on a visa lottery application. The same-sex couple must be considered legally married according the the state or country where the wedding was held.
If the Primary Diversity Visa Winner Dies
Unfortunately, if a winning visa lottery applicant dies before the diversity visa is granted by the consulate, then the spouse and any children cannot get visas.
Where to Go for More Help
Complete instructions on how to apply for the lottery are on the State Department website at http://www.travel.state.gov. Check it regularly to find out about the latest lottery. And for detailed information to help you understand all the requirements for getting a green card, see How to Get a Green Card, by Ilona Bray (Nolo).