Reasons Your Diversity Lottery Visa Application Might Be Disqualified or Denied

Take care to avoid these reasons for disqualification or denial when applying for the diversity lottery immigration program.

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

The diversity lottery is a U.S. immigration program that seeks to increase the relative number of immigrants from countries that have proportionately low levels of immigration to the United States. Since the year 2000, a total of 50,000 diversity lottery visas have been made available each year. The countries whose nationals are eligible for the diversity lottery are determined by the level of the past five years' admission rate levels.

Currently, most of the low-admission countries are in Europe and Africa. To qualify for the diversity visa, one needs only to be from one of the eligible countries and have a high school degree or a certain amount of work experience. You also must not be subject to any of the grounds of inadmissibility to the United States.

Between ten and 20 million people apply each year for the 50,000 available diversity visas. Because the demand is so much higher than the supply, most people are denied simply because they do not "win" the lottery by chance. Your application may, however, be disqualified or denied somewhere along the way for other reasons. Take care to avoid these when applying for the diversity lottery immigration program.

Failing to List Your Spouse and/or Children on Your Application

You must include all requested information related to your spouse and children (under the age of 21) on your application, whether or not they intend to immigrate to the U.S. with you. This includes all your adopted children and stepchildren. You must also include the children of spouses you are no longer married to.

Failure to list your spouse and all your children will result in automatic disqualification of your diversity visa application.

Not Having the Requisite Education and/or Work Experience

To qualify for the diversity lottery, you must have either graduated from high school or have two years of work experience (within the past five years) in a field that typically requires two years of training. You do not need to meet both of these requirements, only one of the two, to be eligible for the diversity lottery.

If you seek to meet the requirement through work experience, consult the U.S. Department of Labor online database; Occupational Information Network or "O*Net." Your occupation must be classified in job zone 4 or 5, with a Special Vocational Preparation (SPV) score of 7 or more.

Submitting More Than One Lottery Application in the Same Registration Period

If you submit more than one application for the diversity lottery during one open-registration period, your applications will all be rejected.

While you cannot submit two applications under your name, spouses can each submit their own application and list their spouse as a derivative. This will increase each spouse's chances of being selected, even though each person can apply only once.

Submitting an Invalid Photograph

You must submit a recent (taken within the last six months) photograph of yourself and your co-applicants. The photographs you submit must be taken facing forward and in front of a plain background. You cannot wear any hair covering unless it is for a religious purpose. Failure to submit a photograph that meets these regulations could result in the disqualification of your application. It's usually easiest to find a professional to take the photo for you.

Being Inadmissible for Previous Unlawful Presence, Visa Fraud, or Criminal Activity

In addition to correctly completing the diversity lottery application, you must meet the general requirements for admission to the United States. The U.S. government won't look into this when you first enter the lottery, but it will if and when you win a slot.

If, for example, you have spent more than 180 days unlawfully in the U.S. after 1997, you might be subject to a three- or ten-year admission bar. Similarly, if you have ever lied or made a material misrepresentation on a U.S. visa application you may be found inadmissible to the United States. Finally, convictions for certain crimes including "crimes involving moral turpitude," any two crimes with a combined sentence of five years or more, controlled substances offenses, drug trafficking, prostitution, and other crimes make one inadmissible to the United States.

Waivers are available for some of the grounds of inadmissibility, so it is important to consult an immigration attorney if you think this may be an issue for you.

Failing to Show You Will Not Become a Public Charge

Before getting final approval to immigrate to the U.S., you must demonstrate that you can support yourself and your family and will not become a "public charge." You will need to convince U.S. immigration authorities that you will not need to rely on government assistance in the United States. Your best bet is for doing this is through a job offer or evidence of your assets. If you do not have sufficient proof of financial self-sufficiency, a friend or family member can help by sponsoring you, in which case he or she would need to file USCIS Form 1-134 affidavit of support.

Getting Legal Help

Although entering the lottery registration is easy enough for most people to do without an attorney, if your name is selected, your best chance for making it through the process is to hire an experienced immigration attorney. The U.S. government always selects more names than it has available visas for, meaning if you make mistakes or encounter government delays in the process, you could lose out entirely.

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