Who qualifies for the new visa lottery?

In my column This week's Consulta Migratoria® explains the visa lottery program and who is eligible to apply.

This is the column:

The U.S. Department of State announced that next Wednesday, October 1, is the new deadline to register for the diversity visa program, popularly known as the "visa lottery".

The enrollment period is for the fiscal year 2016 drawing, which covers October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016. The deadline to submit electronic forms begins Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time (EDT) and ends at 12:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, November 3, 2014.

Through these visas, eligible immigrants can obtain permanent residency in the United States.

Only 50,000 of these visas are issued each year and only people who meet a series of requirements stipulated by the government to be considered admissible to the country qualify. These include a minimum of a high school education, or two years of work experience in an occupation that has required training.

Please note that even if a person is selected in the lottery, there is no guarantee that he or she will receive a visa. If the person does not meet the necessary requirements, he/she will not be issued a visa.

Diversity visas are issued to individuals from countries that have low immigration rates to the U.S. Eligible countries for the new enrollment period include: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela.

From Latin America, persons from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic are not eligible. The application can only be made during the 30-day period stipulated by the Department of State. To participate in the lottery, an electronic application must be submitted on the website www.dvlottery.state.gov. The process is free of charge.

Detailed instructions on how to participate in the FY 2016 visa lottery can be found by clicking here.

Do not wait until the last week of the registration period to submit the electronic form, as high demand in the last days of registration can usually cause delays on the website, preventing you from registering on time.

Please note that no paper or late registrations will be accepted.

The law allows only one entry per person during each registration period. The State Department uses sophisticated technology that can detect if someone has made multiple entries. Individuals who have submitted the form multiple times in the hopes of increasing their chances of "winning" a visa will be excluded from the lottery.

The winners of the lottery will only find out if they have obtained a visa on May 5, 2015. Notification of those selected will only be made on the website. Individual notifications are no longer sent by mail.

It is the responsibility of each applicant to verify whether he/she has been selected. Each person should log on to the website with the confirmation number they received when they completed the online visa lottery application.

If you are selected, you have a limited period of time to complete the corresponding procedures. If you miss the deadline, you lose the right to the visa.

Beware of fraudulent notifications. If you receive an e-mail saying you won and asking for money, it is most likely a scam. Report it to the authorities.

A great advantage of winning the visa lottery is that if you are married or have children, they may also receive the benefit of a visa and permanent residency if they meet the necessary requirements.

It is very important to register correctly for the visa lottery. Your application will be disqualified if you do not meet the registration requirements.

If in doubt, consult an immigration attorney for proper advice.

Please note that the U.S. Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill passed last year provides for the elimination of the visa lottery. Therefore, should this bill become law within the next year, the FY 2016 visa lottery could be the last.

For more information and immigration tips, read my blog inmigracionhoy.com.

Send your questions to preguntas@consultamigratoria.com. Include detailed information about your situation to better answer your questions.

Nelson A. Castillo, Esq. is an immigration attorney and author of La Tarjeta Verde: Cómo Obtener la Residencia Permanente en los Estados Unidos (Green Card: How to Obtain Permanent Residence in the United States). He is a past president of the Hispanic National Bar Association and current president of the Los Angeles Westlake South Neighborhood Council. To contact Mr. Castillo's office, please call (213) 537-VISA (8472).

The purpose of this column is to provide general information. There can be no guarantee or prediction as to what will be the outcome of the information presented by Dr. Nelson A. Castillo. The information should not be taken as legal advice for any individual, case or situation. Consult with an immigration attorney for personalized legal advice before beginning any immigration proceedings.