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

How can diversity visa lottery winners show that they will not need to rely on need-based public assistance in the U.S., in order to avoid being denied U.S. lawful permanent residence (a green card)?

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

People who win the diversity visa lottery are not, contrary to popular belief, given a green card (U.S. lawful permanent residence) automatically. They first need to meet various qualifications and go through an additional application process. As part of this, they must show that they will not become what's known as a "public charge" (this is, have to rely on need-based public assistance or welfare.) Overcoming this ground of inadmissibility can be a challenge for people who are, for instance, currently in school or unemployed, or who simply don't earn enough to support themselves in the United States.

How Do U.S. Visa Lottery Applicants Show They Won't Need Public Assistance?

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 you, as well as members of your household moving to the U.S. with you, at 100% or more of the current Poverty Guidelines. See the page containing Form I-864P for the exact figures, which are updated annually (usually in an upward direction).

Even if you meet this income/assets amount, however, you can be deemed a public charge if your overall financial, employment, and health situation suggest that you won't be self-supporting in the long term.

Financial Documents Required of DV Lottery Winners

The good news is that, 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 U.S. Department of State (DOS) that they will not become a public charge during their time in the United States. The ways you might do this include:

  • demonstrating that you have or will have sufficient income (based on an existing job or a job offer) plus other assets, to support yourself once you are granted U.S. lawful 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 they 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 U.S. green card.

If family members are planning to immigrate you to the U.S. (you being the main DV lottery winner), they must also be listed on the Form I-134 as accompanying you. What's more, the income and assets listed on Form I-134 must be enough to cover them, too.

Tips for Students and Unemployed DV Lottery Visa 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 in the United States 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.

Getting Legal Help

Winning the DV Lottery can be a great thing, but it is not a guarantee of a green card. The U.S. government picks more winners each year than it has green cards available, so just getting through the process in a timely manner can be critical. For more information, see articles about Diversity Visa Lottery Green Cards. An experienced immigration attorney can help you navigate this often-complicated process.

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