Do Lottery Visa Winners Need Affidavit of Support With Green Card Application?

How should a lottery winner show that he or she will not need to go on need-based public assistance in the U.S. (and therefore should not be denied a visa)?

A person who wins the green card (diversity visa) lottery is not given a green card (U.S. lawful permanent residence) automatically. That person needs to meet various qualifications and go through an additional application process first. As part of this, the person must show that he or she will not become what's known as a "public charge." Overcoming this ground of inadmissibility can be a challenge for people who are, for instance, currently in school or unemployed.

The U.S. government has a specific idea of how much money someone needs to live in the United States without requiring government assistance. Your income or assets must be enough to support your (as well as members of your household moving to the U.S. with you) at the level of 125% of the current Poverty Guidelines or above. See the www.uscis.gov page containing "Form I-864P" for the exact figures, which are updated annually.

No Need for I-864 Affidavit of Support for Lottery Winners

The good news is, unlike family visa applicants, Diversity Visa Lottery (“DV Lottery”) winners do not need to file an I-864 Affidavit of Support in order to apply for permanent residence.

They will nevertheless need to demonstrate to U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the Department of State (DOS) that they will not become a public charge (rely on public assistance benefits) during their time in the United States. It's possible for you to do this by either:

  • demonstrating that you have sufficient income and other assets to support yourself once you are granted permanent residence, or
  • having a friend or relative who has legal status in the U.S. complete Form I-134, Affidavit of Support and agree to sponsor you during your time in the United States. For more information on this, see Filling Out Form I-134, Affidavit of Support to Help a U.S. Visa Applicant.

"Assets" means property like investments, savings, and real estate (so long as it can be easily converted to cash). So, if you don't have a current income, showing a source of wealth or cash can help your application for a green card.

If family members are immigrating through the DV winner, they must also be listed on the Form I-134 as accompanying you, and the income and assets listed on Form I-134 must be enough to cover them, too.

Tips for Students and Unemployed Applicants

If you are currently unemployed, you should gather as much documentation as possible to show that you either have enough assets to avoid relying on public assistance or will have a higher income soon. This evidence can include:

  • letters from banks and financial institutions where you have funds on deposit, showing the value of your accounts in U.S. dollars
  • copies of documents showing that you have other sources of income, such as from stocks and other investments or royalties.
  • copies of titles and deeds for vehicles, residences, as well as receipts for appliances, electronics, or any big ticket items you own, and
  • a job offer letter from a U.S. employer, on company letterhead.

Also, if you are currently attending college or a vocational training program, make a copy of your school diploma once you receive it and send it to USCIS or show it to the consular officer. This should help demonstrate your employability. Keep in mind that it can be expensive to relocate permanently to the U.S., especially when you do not have an employment or credit history.

Winning the DV Lottery can be a great thing, but it is not a guarantee of a green card. For more information, see Nolo's articles about Diversity Visa Lottery Green Cards. An experienced immigration attorney can help you navigate this often-complicated process.

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