Will I be disqualified if I forget to put my stepson's name on my diversity visa application?

Omitting a stepchild -- even if it was your husband's child via a mistress -- is grounds for visa lottery disqualification.

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Question

I was selected in the diversity visa lottery. But I have been told by an employee at the U.S. embassy that my visa will be denied at my interview because I did not list my ex-husband’s six-year-old son on my online application. The reason I forgot is that the child belongs to another woman with whom my husband had an affair during our marriage. I divorced him when he recognized the baby as his own. Also, the part of the application where I had to list my children said “optional,” so I did not know I really needed to write anything there. Is there a way I can still get my visa?

Answer

Unfortunately, it is more likely than not that you will be disqualified from receiving a diversity visa (DV)-based green card. Still, there might be a tiny chance that your mistake will be forgiven if you can somehow convince your interview officer that the mistake was completely innocent and that there are other good reasons why you should be granted the visa.

In such a situation, the officer would have the option to request an advisory opinion from the Advisory Opinions Division of the Department of State’s Visa Office in Washington, DC. If that opinion is favorable to you, perhaps the requirement that diversity visa applicants list their children in their initial application could be interpreted exceptionally in your favor.

If the interview officer refuses to request an advisory opinion and denies your visa application, you might be able (with the assistance of a U.S.-based attorney) to obtain such an opinion directly. You could then request that the officer reconsider his or her decision based on that opinion.

However, the odds of these scenarios changing things in your favor are small.

First of all, interview officers (and their supervisors at the local embassy or consulate) have absolute discretion to decide whether or not to use or to follow advisory opinions — which seem to be very rarely requested in diversity cases in the first place.

Second of all, though you may have been confused by the language on the application form, the instructions for the form should have been clear enough: They required that you list “all living step-children who are unmarried and under the age of 21 on the date of your electronic entry, even if you are no longer legally married to the child’s parent, and even if the child does not currently reside with you and/or will not immigrate with you.”

(For information on why children born “out of wedlock” can qualify as stepchildren, see also Volume 9, Section 40.1, Note 2.2-1 of the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual.) The instructions should also have put you on notice that “failure to list all children who are eligible will result in disqualification of the principal applicant and refusal of all visas in the case at the time of the visa interview.”

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