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How to Enter The Green Card Lottery Without Hiring an Attorney

From Jennifer Leavitt-Wipf,
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What it takes to enter the diversity visa lottery

Leading immigration attorney Carl Shusterman recently hosted a chat on our site on:

How to Enter the Green Card Lottery.... Without Paying an Attorney

Jennifer Wipf: Welcome to our chat on how to enter the immigration lottery without having to pay a lawyer. Our special guest expert tonight is leading immigration attorney Carl Shusterman. Moderation is on and I have Mr. Shusterman on the line.

Please remember that these questions and answers are of a general nature and should not be construed as legal advice. We already have a bunch of questions coming in:

Question #1: What are the rules? Can Koreans join it?

Carl Shusterman: Hi everyone! Let me say before we get started, that the subtitle of this chat was how to apply for a green card lottery without paying for an attorney. And after reading the State Department's 14 pages of "simple instructions," I think everyone should have at least two or three attorneys before trying to apply for this thing.

Jennifer Wipf: Uh oh! :)

Carl Shusterman: Ok, to answer the first question, both North and South Koreans may apply, depending on the part of Korea that they were born in. South Korea is an ineligible country for the lottery, while North Korea is not. However, if you are a citizen of South Korea, who was born in what is now North Korea, you are eligible to apply.

More generally, the ineligible countries are as follows:

Canada, China (mainland born and Macau), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories. People born in Hong Kong SAR and Taiwan are eligible.

Question #2: My daughter is 19 years old. Can I include her under my entry? Additionally, can she send an application entry for herself?

Carl Shusterman: Yes to both.

Question #3: If you are illegal in this country, would you still be eligible if you are the winner?

Carl Shusterman: Being illegal and being a visa lottery winner presents huge problems. Unless you are eligible to adjust your status in the United States, under Section 245(i) of the law (See:, you must obtain your immigrant visa by going abroad. However, if you have been unlawfully present in the United States for more than 180 days since April 1st, 1997, you may be subject to either the three or ten year bars to returning to the United States. However, whether or not you are unlawfully present is a very complex subject. For example, if you entered the country without inspection, or you overstayed the date on your Form I-94, in most cases, you would be considered unlawfully present. However, if you were admitted to the US as a student or an exchange visitor (for duration of status), you probably have not accumulated any unlawful presence, and it would be safe to go abroad to claim your immigrant visa.For more information concerning unlawful presence, see:

Although it is possible to obtain a waiver of the three and ten year bars, most people would not qualify.

Question #4: My relatives are in Taiwan. My first question is that my brother was born in Mainland China, but his wife was born in Taiwan. I understand he is eligible to enter this lottery, who will be the main applicant, himself or his wife?

Carl Shusterman: Both. Under Section 202(b) of the immigration law, a person with a spouse who was born in another country from them may use the spouse's country of birth if this would be advantageous to their immigration situation. Therefore, both the husband and the wife may be "charged" to Taiwan (not China), a country which is eligible for the green card lottery, even though only the wife was actually born in Taiwan.

A number of special rules apply in this situation; chief among them that the husband and wife must immigrate to the United States simultaneously.

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