What to do after being chosen in the visa lottery?

The U.S. Department of State has released the list of visa lottery winners for fiscal year 2016. Anyone who submitted an application should go to the Entrant Status Check website to see if they are among the winners.

To verify if you were selected, you will need to enter the confirmation number the federal government gave you when you completed the application, along with your first name, last name and year of birth.

If your name appears on the list, you must act immediately to apply for your visa, as there is a limited time to apply. Failure to do so within the time limit may result in forfeiture of your visa.

If you were selected for the visa lottery program, you are eligible to apply for your visa only during the 2016 fiscal year, which runs from October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016.

Without exception, all eligible selectees must obtain their visa or adjust their status by the end of the fiscal year, as the benefits of this visa cannot be carried over to the following year.

After following all the instructions on the Entrant Status Check site, the processing of cases will begin. Then, individuals living abroad will receive a notice with the date they must appear for their visa interviews at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy or at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office for individuals who are adjusting status within the United States.

Even if you won the lottery, you must still be eligible.

Winning the lottery does not guarantee that you will be approved for permanent residency, because in addition to being eligible for the visa lottery program, you must meet all of the eligibility requirements for immigrant visas under U.S. immigration law, including being admissible to the country.

Unfortunately, many people who are not eligible for the visa lottery apply for the program. But after they are chosen, and as the lottery winner goes through the process, the federal government verifies their eligibility. If they find that they are ineligible or did not follow the program registration instructions, they will disqualify them.

In addition, any person selected must be admissible to the country.

Individuals who are or have been undocumented in the United States, or who have criminal records or immigration arrests should be very careful. Before proceeding with the immigrant visa process, they should consult with an immigration attorney to make sure they meet all the requirements and are eligible to apply for permanent residence.

Doing the process when they do not qualify is a waste of time and money, because the federal government does not refund fees paid if the person is not eligible. In addition, undocumented persons within the United States could be targeted by immigration authorities.