Beating the Odds: Increase the Chances for You and Your Family to Win the Diversity Visa Lottery

By having eligible spouses and children enter the DV lottery along with you, you can legally increase the chances of obtaining a U.S. green card this way.

By , J.D. · University of Washington School of Law

The choice of winners of the U.S. diversity visa (DV) lottery, which is held each year, is completely random. For the 50,000 annually available visas to people from select countries, between 13 million to 20 million eligible people typically put in their names.

Of course, interested foreign nationals are always looking for ways to increase their chances of success. For example, some have tried entering the lottery registration more than once. This led the U.S. Department of State to implement a system that automatically disqualifies anyone who submits multiple visa lottery entries. You can, however, increase your family's chances of becoming residents of the United States by various legal and acceptable means, namely:

  • having a spouse submit a separate registration, and
  • having your children submit separate registrations.

We will discuss these possibilities in more detail in this article. (For the general law on the DV lottery, see I.N.A. Section 203(c).)

Both Spouses, If Eligible, Should Enter the Diversity Visa Lottery Drawing

The best way to increase your family's chances of success is to have all eligible family members register for the Diversity Visa lottery. A winning applicant can bring both spouse and unmarried children under age 21.

For example, let's say you and your spouse are both citizens of New Zealand, you both work in skilled jobs, and both graduated from secondary school. As a family, you now have two eligible applicants who might win the lottery. You can file one registration under your name, and your spouse can file one registration under their name. You will each receive a confirmation number. If one of you wins, the other applies for a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence) as a derivative spouse.

It is important to remember that each person applying directly for a diversity visa must meet the eligibility requirements on their own. Therefore, if your spouse does not meet the employment, country, or education requirements, they are not eligible to apply personally, in their own name.

Eligible Children Should Also Apply for the DV Lottery

There is no limit on how many eligible members of the same family may apply for the DV lottery. If you have any children who have met the educational or work experience requirements (which usually requires them to be at least 16 to 18 years of age), those children should also enter the lottery. They won't, if they win, be able to bring you to the United States immediately; but they will start a path to helping you and other family members immigrate in the future, if you wish to do so.

For example: Let's say you and your 20-year-old son are eligible for diversity visas, and you both apply. Your son wins, but you do not. Unfortunately, your son cannot bring parents along as "derivatives." So, your son enters the United States and becomes a lawful permanent resident. After five years of living in the United States, your son can potentially apply to become a U.S. citizen (assuming he can meet the other eligibility requirements, such as demonstrating good moral character and a knowledge of the English language as well as U.S. history and government. As a U.S. citizen, he can petition for you (considered his "immediate relative") to become a resident of the United States.

Next Steps

Having your name drawn in the Diversity Visa Lottery is not a guarantee of U.S. residence. More names are chosen than slots are available, and timing is important, as described in What Do You Win When You Win the Diversity Visa Lottery?. Your best bet, if your name (or your spouse or child's name) is drawn might be to hire an experienced immigration lawyer to help with the complexities of the application process.

Also, for more information on family-based immigration, read Green Card Qualification.

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