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Musings On DV 2005

by Mitch Berenson and Charlene Avis

The 2005 Green Card Lottery Program ended on December 30, 2003, amidst a flurry of would-be applicants finding themselves extremely frustrated and disillusioned.

Applicants submitting their entries within the last few days struggled to register their applications as there was an enormous volume of traffic to the government website. We received many calls from potential applicants, stating that they could not get their application filed. No official numbers have been released regarding the numbers of people unable to enter. However, there were no traffic problems until the last two days, so those applicants leaving their entries until the last minute ran the risk of being unable to enter.

The American Immigration Lawyers' Association (AILA) released a document entitled "Tips for getting your DV Application to go through" on the last day of the registration period. AILA received the document from a member's client, which detailed instructions or tricks, which proved helpful to some struggling to submit their application. Crystal Williams, Senior Director of Liaison & Information for AILA, shared this with us, "Forty AILA members who reported on their DV lottery experiences indicated that, between them, a total of 801 of their clients were unable to get their DV lottery filings through during the last few days of the filing period. As there must be thousands of attempted applicants that we would never hear about, this small percentage of the people who attempted give some glimpse of the magnitude of the problem."

We called the Department of State on the last day of registration, who advised us that they had installed two additional servers to accommodate the traffic. According to a government source, "The Department of State received nearly 6 million entries this year. Almost 300,000 entries were received on each of the last two days of the registration period. Last year, the Department received 7.3 million qualified entries during the annual registration period. 2.9 million applications were disqualified for arriving outside the mail-in period or for failing to follow directions properly."

A potential client, John (who preferred to remain anonymous), called us on December 30, very frustrated and anxious as he had been trying to enter the lottery for hours that day and had been unsuccessful. He requested that we submit his application on his behalf and would pay a premium for this. We had to advise him that there was no guarantee that his application could be submitted successfully, as there was enormous traffic to the website.

Electronic filing was a newly initiated requirement for the 2005 DV Lottery. It eliminated late filing and required that applicants follow directions in order to register. The photographic requirements were very complex and rigid. Regulations stipulated that photographs had to be scanned from an original photograph or taken digitally. Both methods would be acceptable, however government specified that should the digital image not conform to specific size requirements, the entry would be disqualified at submission stage on the computer. This is very unfair and discriminatory, as it alienates potential applicants from developing countries where accessibility to modern technology is non-existent or knowledge is limited. We believe that this method of filing is designed to make it more difficult and ultimately discourage submission. Once again, we spoke to a government official regarding these stipulations, and were told "If the entry was accepted by the computer, it would be fine, as long as it complied with other specific criteria in the rules".

According to the State Department, the nationalities most represented in the diversity lottery applicants are from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Nepal and Morocco as opposed to countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe and Angola. This is indicative of a large population and a higher number of entrants. In addition, it also indicates a basic knowledge of immigration law. It is also speculation that the lottery was more heavily publicized in those areas. A country cannot have more than 7% of their number of entries win a green card.

Many applicants entering the lottery are currently residing in the United States, many of which have overstayed their visa and become illegal. Should an illegal immigrant win a green card, the applicant would need to return to their home country to file for the adjustment of status. Ineligibilities based on violation of status will be granted or denied at the discretion of the officer at the consulate. However, there may be a basis to waive these ineligibilities. Again, this is all at the discretion of the officer.

One of my clients won a green card on the lottery last year, and asked me why he should use an immigration attorney to process his paperwork if he could do it himself. My advice was, "It is advisable to utilize the services of an immigration attorney to process the paperwork as there are too many pitfalls nowadays. There may have been a time in previous years where a client could process his own paperwork smoothly, however, post 9/11, I would not recommend filing on one's own."

How much would it cost a client to have his green card application filed by an immigration attorney? Fees differ from attorney to attorney and circumstance to circumstance. Factors to take into account include marital status and personal records. A single applicant can budget for approximately $2,000 and a married couple with children can look at approximately $2,500. The government filing fee is in the region of $400 - $500. Criminal convictions will increase the legal fee, as legal briefs need to be prepared.

My advice to clients wanting to enter this year is to enter timeously to avoid disappointment and possible non-entry.

About The Author

Mitch Berenson is the principal and founder of the Law Offices of Mitch Berenson. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the American Bar Association and various other professional organizations. The Law Firm of Mitch Berenson focuses on Immigration and Nationality Law. The firm assists clients with their applications for the Diversity Visa lottery. Please feel free to email or call (310) 207-0800 for further queries.

Charlene Avis is responsible for Mitch Berenson's Public Relations division. She also manages the Diversity Visa lottery client applications for the Firm. Charlene is a member of the Public Relations Society of America. She joined the Law Offices of Mitch Berenson in April 2003. Please feel free to email or call (310) 207-0800 for further queries.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.