Over the last couple of months I’ve been asked many times how I got the green card (formally kwown as Permanent Resident Card or Form I-551). So here’s my story..

As an undergraduate student in Germany I always wanted to study abroad which I eventually did for one quarter at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Prior to this lengthy stay, I had the pleasure to meet and visit friends all over the United States multiple times. This experience led me to believe that I wanted to move here permanently as I really had great experiences so far.

I started to explore all the options that’ll allow me to relocate eventually and I quickly stumbled upon what is called the DV lottery. And if you’re now confused by the word lottery, it is literally a lottery. So let me tell you how it works. Every year between Oct, 3rd and Nov, 2nd one who wish to participate is required to enter some basic information:

  • Full Name
  • Gender
  • Birthdate
  • City of birth
  • Country of birth
  • Country of eligibility for the DV program (usually the same as above)
  • Photograph (Must follow special guidelines)
  • Mailing address
  • Current country of residency
  • Phone number (optional)
  • E-mail address
  • Highest level of education
  • Current martial status
  • Number of children

After submitting the info, a confirmation number is issued. This confirmation number is crucial to note down as there’s no way to recover it and is the only way to access the application in case of winning.

Fast-forward to May the following year, the Department of State will send you an e-mail saying that you’re now able to see the result of the lottery drawing so whether you’ve been selected to move forward with the application or that it didn’t work out this time. In case of the former the real work begins…

Being selected doesn’t necessarily mean you’re able to continue with the application as it depends on your batch number and the amount of visa applications your local embassy can process. So if your batch number is i.e. 65000 it’s very unlikely you can move forward as the application needs to take place during a certain time period (referred to as fiscal year). If you’re unable to have everything processed by the end of the fiscal period, you’ll need to start over which means re-applying for the lottery as your lot is only valid for one fiscal year.

In case you were lucky to have a low lot number, you’ll need to submit a DS-260 form to provide more information on your background, your work experience, qualifications, etc. and again print the confirmation page as you’ll need it to bring to the interview at the embassy. After the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) reviewed your application (which also includes at which embassy you’re planning to do the interview), the embassy will send you an appointment letter. As the interview preparation is a lengthy, I recommend starting as early as possible to collect all the documents needed. As the list varies depending on the embassy, you should check here.

In my particular case for Germany/Frankfurt, I needed to collect all school reports, police reports, birth certificates, proof of sufficient funds, my passport, a mailing address to send the passport back to and everything else that supports you’re being a solid candidate for becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). Some of the documents need to be sent in before the appointment and others are fine to bring to the interview (i.e. school reports). Again, this depends highgly on your local embassy, so please check with them if you’ve any doubts what to send in/bring in person. Another very important step is the so-called medical examination which evaluates your physical condition and your history of vaccinations. The thing with the medical exam is that you should take it as close as possible to the interview appointment as its validity is limited to 6 months and thus determines the latest possible entry date to the USA.

An obstacle with this special appointment is that it can only be conducted by certain (very few) doctors and it’s really hard to get an appointment. In Germany, there’re 6 doctors across the country who are certified to do the examination and only one of them allows you to walk in. Luckily, it’s the one in Frankfurt and close to the embassy so what I did was to go to the embassy without having the medical exam taken and thus my visa inquiry rejected (on purpose). The embassy will re-evaluate your endeavor once it has all the necessary documents so I went to the doctor’s office right after the appointment at the embassy and they sent in the results to the embassy so the process continued as usual. Of course I asked the embassy beforehand as my appointment was really early and there was no way I could’ve finished the doctor’s appointment prior to going to the embassy on the same day. Now I just needed to wait for my visa package to arrive and enter the USA prior to the expiration date of my visa stamp (printed in your passport). An important thing to note here is that you just need to hand over the package before the expiration and as soon as you did, the visa stamp serves as your temporary green card for up to 1 year (calculated from the date of arrival). You can immediately leave the country again if you’re not yet ready to move.

A quick note on the costs:

Even though the DV lottery itself is free of charge and please don’t use any of these scam services who charge you to participate on your behalf, the process of getting the visa and later the green card is quite costly (not including the flights).

  • Visa application fee: 330$
  • Medical examination: approx. 250$
  • Green card issuing fee: 165$
  • Misc. expenses (police records, etc.): 100$

I’ll continue in the next part to explain how I actually got the physical green card and what else there is to do after your first arrival such as opening a bank account, credit score, employment, travel, etc.

FYI: I applied 3 times until I was lucky. All in-depth information on the process is provided by the Department of State and can be accessed here.