A green card lottery primer for Aussies wanting to immigrate to the U.S.

Want one of these? You're not alone!
Want one of these? You’re not alone!

When I woke up this morning, I noticed a solid uptick in visitors to this site over the preceding 10 or so hours.

That can only mean one thing: Green card lottery season is upon us again.

Less than an hour ago (at the time of writing), at 12:00 p.m. ET on October 1, the 2016 Diversity Visa program opened its doors to the world.

I’ve always wanted this blog to act as a strong resource for Aussies in the lottery, so after the jump I’ll give you all a nice rundown of what’s what.

UPDATE 10/24: It’s come to my attention that this post may randomly generate an advertisement at the bottom or on the sidebars for green card lottery entry websites. IGNORE THEM. The only place you should apply for the green card lottery is through this link: https://www.dvlottery.state.gov/

And now, an introduction. Hey, how’s it going? My name is Adrian Crawford. I’m a 29-year-old guy from Brisbane, Queensland.

From long before my first vacation to the U.S., in 2008, I was intrigued by America and always wanted to see it for myself. By the time my first trip here ended, I knew I had to give it a go living and working here.

That didn’t eventuate until late 2013, after my green card number came up in mid-November. I moved permanently right before Thanksgiving, and I had a job offer around two weeks later.

Since mid-December 2013, I’ve been working as a web editor and columnist at two newspapers in central Maine, based in the capital city of Augusta. This blog has chronicled the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the last 10 or so months.

But that’s not why you came here (although I hope it’s why you’ll stay. I can be funny sometimes.) You want immigration information, and I’ve got it.

What’s a green card?

For those unacquainted, “green card” is a colloquialism for US permanent residency. I’m sure the cards were all green once, but nowadays they’re a little more sophisticated and just retain splashes of the color.

Every year, the US Government allocates 50,000 green cards to citizens of select countries that don’t have a high immigration rate to the United States. The basic principle behind this is to make the country a more diverse place through immigration. Read more here.

How do I get one?

Between October 1 and November 3, the US State Department throws open a website where anyone of eligible nationality can apply. There’s a web form to fill out with your basic information, contact details, parental heritage (as questionable as it may be) and whatnot.

If you’re a green card aspirant, you can apply right here. There are a ton of sites on the internet purporting to be the official place for entry, some even charging fees, but they’re bullshit. It’s free to enter, and you should only enter through the U.S. State Department website.

Once you submit, you’re given a confirmation number and are told to check back in six months’ time. So, y’know, just around the corner. Read more here.

What’s the interview like?

You’ll have to have some face time with an employee of the U.S. Government, at the consulate closest to where you applied. For many Australians and New Zealanders, that’s Sydney.

It can be nerve-wracking at times, and it’s important you get all your ducks in a row before you go in. I’ve done a pretty comprehensive rundown of it. Read more here.

What’s immigration day like?

Glad you asked! It’s exciting, obviously, but also confronting when you check that box that says “Australian citizen departing permanently.” Yikes.

At the other end, after that lengthy flight, it’s also a little tedious and nerve-wracking when you’re up close and personal with a stern-looking immigration official at the gates at LAX. Read more here.

Then what?

That, my friend, is entirely up to you. But this is the land of opportunity – the sky’s the limit.

I don’t know what field of employment you’re in, but be aware that job applications and resumes are quite different in the U.S. than they are back home.

A few months ago, I wrote some tips for cracking the media market out here. While it’s a little journalism-specific, the advice translates pretty well across all fields (if I do say so myself.) Read more here.

Be aware, if you weren’t already, that many things are going to be different to your life in Australia, or your vacations in the U.S. The ones that tripped me up were:

But it’s not all doom and gloom, you guys! There are a ton of great things about living here obviously, like:

And of course, if you’ve got any questions at all about the process, my experiences or anything else, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

Other great resources

When I first started writing this blog, it was mostly due to a lack of well-written and accessible information about the process from start to finish.

Being a writer by trade, I figured it was up to me to put it all together. But I can’t claim credit for everything – I had some help along the way, and I’m not the only one doing this.

First and foremost, the Immigration.com Forums have an unbelievable wealth of both knowledge and experienced posters who can answer just about any question you’ve got.

Since my immigration I’ve also made some internet friends going through the same experience as I have.

Bernie Watt is a Queenslander who made the move to New York City in early 2013. His great blog can be found here.

Another e-pal, Kiara Cunningham, is a 22-year-old nursing student from Melbourne who also came up big in the lottery this year. She hasn’t made the jump yet, but she’s documenting the process on a very cool website called American State of Mine.

And hey, if the lottery doesn’t work out for you, there are other ways in, like the E3 visa. Another Melburnian, Lynda Galea, has been through that whole process and blogged the HECK out of it. She now lives in Florida. Take a look at how she did it right here.

Look ’em up, give ’em some traffic, tell ’em I sent you.

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13 thoughts on “A green card lottery primer for Aussies wanting to immigrate to the U.S.

      1. The statistics are readily available on the State Department website for you to see. Where people choose to move in their lives is their business and has no impact on you.

  1. Hey, I am looking to move to USA via DV lottery. I am going to apply this month, however in 2016 I intend on doing 9 months of travel around the world. I intend on working all of 2015. Will I still be able to successfully do my interviews in 2015-early 2016 and still travel while retaining my potentially won green card.

    I guess what I am asking is. Upon winning my Green Card, what is the max time I have to move to the USA before I lose it / it becomes invalid?

    1. Hi Andrew. Here’s some brutal truth for you.

      First of all, you should probably not be planning two years in advance for the fact that you MIGHT get a green card. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but literally millions of people will miss out. There’s really no point in planning your life around getting one at this stage.

      Secondly, interviews begin in October 2015 for DV-2016. In the event that you get through, you might get an October interview, you might get an August interview. It’s literally entirely random. It’s a lottery. I can’t tell you when your interview will be any more than I can tell you whether I’ll be hit by lightning tomorrow.

      For argument’s sake, let’s assume you do get through, and you get your interview done successfully. You must enter while the medical is valid, which is six months. That means you MUST enter the U.S. within six months of your interview and activate the green card.

      You can leave after that and continue with whatever your life plan is at that moment, because the temporary visa applied to your passport (after your interview) is good for one year, but leaving the United States for longer than 12 months after that will result in the forfeiture of your green card.

      There are ways to get around that, via re-entry permits, but you can’t just pop into the U.S., grab permission to leave, then dip out for another year to backpack around Europe.

      The green card is for permanent residency. Its entire purpose is for people to immigrate to the U.S. and live there permanently. A lot of people seem to think it’s a glorified working holiday visa, but it just doesn’t work like that.

      But like I said, I wouldn’t be planning your whole 2016 travel schedule around the idea that you’re going to win one. Don’t put life on hold for it, because there’s a greater-than-average chance you may miss out.

      1. I want to move to the usa permanently, however I also have been saving / planning for a 9 month trip, which I will go ahead wht regardless of my success or failure in winning a green card.

        I’m more worried about how it will interfere with my trip. In an ideal world I want to win the card, go on my trip, then return and live in the USA. I was wondering if this was possible or not, or if I would have to forfeit my trip to move to USA or forfeit my USA move to go on my trip.

        Ideally, I could do both. Go on my big trip and then move to USA after.

      2. It’s possible in a technical sense, because you have 12 months after your initial entry. I’m sure you’ve got an idea of your finances, but don’t underestimate how much in savings you can burn setting yourself up once you move here, especially in the event that you don’t immediately have a job to bring some money in.

        You should also be aware that if you’re looking towards citizenship, the five-year timer won’t start at your first entry, but when you come back after your hypothetical trip.

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