In a move that may be of interest to foreign nationals who have relatives in South Carolina, the U.S. Department of State began accepting applications for the 2017 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program on Oct. 1. The program, which is also known as the green card lottery, allows up to 50,000 immigrants to become permanent residents whether or not they have a sponsor. Applications must be submitted electronically by Nov. 3, 2015. There is no registration fee.
The purpose of the green card lottery is to encourage immigration from countries that send fewer immigration applications to the United States. Foreign nationals hailing from the regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, South America, Central America and the Caribbean are welcome to apply. However, not all countries in those regions are eligible. Natives of the following countries cannot apply through the diversity program: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom and Vietnam. Individuals born in Hong Kong, Ireland, Macau and Taiwan may apply.
In order to qualify, individuals must be from an eligible country and meet certain work and educational requirements. They also must be able to process their green cards within the allotted period of time. Immediate family members of successful green card applicants are also eligible for green cards as long as they meet admission standards. The Department of State will begin officially notifying approved applicants on May 3, 2016, through the green card lottery website.
Foreign nationals wishing to begin the naturalization process may benefit by consulting with an attorney. Legal counsel could ensure that all required documentation is properly prepared and that all deadlines are met.