The above screenshot might make my cousin mad for exposing her as a weirdo, but it also shows the raw disbelief and excitement I experienced exactly one year ago today.
May 1 is a huge day for those who’ve thrown their hats into the ring for a Diversity Visa green card like the one I’ve got. Six months prior, they filled out a simple form and sent it off into the ether, hoping that their name would be drawn out of a hat at random for a chance at being allowed to immigrate to the United States.
Since the entry period is a one-month window between October and November, and the results aren’t available until May, the wait can be agonizing. And on top of that, once you get your first notification letter (1NL) you’re eligible for “further processing” – i.e. you get to send nine million pages of paperwork to what I imagine is a cube farm in Kentucky, and then you get to wait for between five and 11 months to see whether the visas run out before you get called up (2NL) for your chance to get one.
For me, I flat-out didn’t even remember until I got home from work the night of May 1, looked at the calendar on my phone to figure out what time my personal training appointment was for the next day, and saw a reminder that I could check my green card entry. The following conversation ensued.
Me: “Hey, tomorrow’s the day I can check my green card application. Not that I’m going to get through in any case.”
Ali Rae, roommate extraordinaire: “How exciting! What are the chances like? Can you check it now? It’s May 1 in the US by now!”
Me: “One in a million, literally. It doesn’t open until midday Eastern Time, and I’m not sitting up until 2:00am to get shot down. That’s just dumb. I’ll look tomorrow I guess.”
But before I went to bed, I sent texts to a few of my American buddies asking them to cross their fingers for me. I didn’t think I was going to be successful, but it couldn’t hurt to have a little bit of luck on my side, right?
The next day I bumbled out of bed and did a bunch of unrelated web browsing before figuring, “to hell with it. I might as well get it over and done with.” You see, not only did I not think I was going to get through to the next stage of the process, I actually didn’t care that much. I’d already begun the paperwork process of applying for an E-3 visa so I could enter the US on a work sponsorship in August and then job-hunt from there. I felt like my path to the States was already set, so who cares if I don’t get selected for permanent residency? NOT THIS LITTLE BLACK DUCK.
And there it was. I sat in stunned silence for a few moments processing what I’d read. I think the worst part was that there weren’t many people I could tell who’d a) understand or b) be particularly happy about it. There was my girlfriend, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable bringing up tidbits about how I was leaving the country permanently, for obvious reasons. None of my workmates knew my intentions to leave mid-year for good. I hadn’t even really discussed it with my parents in great detail.
But I knew my cousin Becca would understand how big of a deal it was. She’d entered the DV lottery more than once over the years but had never been successful. And now here I was, in my first ever entry, having pulled out one of 125,000 spots on the short list. Holy hell.
Later that night I got to tell the aforementioned roomie Ali, who excitedly asked me what my chances were.
She was stunned that I hadn’t been researching to see what the odds were and how the process worked from here on out, neither of which I’d actually considered at all. I managed to find a feature article on the Sydney Morning Herald website (I think) where one of the paper’s reporters went through the whole shooting match in 2007 or so, detailing the costs and the odds. But that was basically the only well-written, first-person, start-to-finish account I could find from an Aussie anywhere on the internet. Even from that point I knew I needed to document the whole thing.
Over the following two weeks or so, I started reading a forum centered on immigration to the US, in particular a board about DV lottery applications. It became more and more clear to me that there were thousands upon thousands of people whose entire lives hang in the balance during the green card process. People from war-torn and hard-up countries have literally applied every year for a decade to try and get the chance to immigrate to the US. Yet here I am, a 27-year-old making a great living in a solid job in Australia, with a low case number (and therefore a high chance of getting a visa), who’s thinking of using his green card for a couple of years while he’s still young and wants to get a different experience. Do I deserve to take this visa from someone who’s literally trying to improve their life?
Ali once again came to the rescue, assuring me that if I did indeed get a green card, then it was mine to do what I wanted with. If I wanted to forfeit it after two years? My prerogative and mine alone. I wasn’t “wasting” a visa. My roomie was right yet again.
As 2013 unfolded, with every little piece falling into place smoothly and without incident, I looked back often and realized how serendipitous the whole thing was. I was going to take an admittedly shady loophole way into the country and then a green card chance fell into my lap. And then, a week after I re-entered the country as a permanent resident, I had a second job interview. A week after that? I had a job interview and was preparing to fly with all my belongings on a one-way ticket to Maine.
It’s amazing what can happen in 12 months. To all those hopefuls out there, frantically checking the DV lottery site today, I wish you all the best. And let me know how you go!