In this article, I’d like to share my personal experience and provide guidance on what to do if you’ve been selected in the lottery for a green card to the USA. My husband and I applied for the lottery in the fall of 2012, with the results announced on May 1, 2013. Of the 9,374,191 correct applications received for the fiscal year 2014, only 125,000 were chosen to proceed to the next round, including 133 from the Czech Republic. From the time we discovered our results until our interview date, the entire process took us ten months. Below, I’ve prepared a guide on what you need to prepare for your final interview at the U.S. Embassy in Prague.
Confirmation of Eligibility
Every green card applicant must have completed high school or hold a high school diploma. If the applicant does not possess a high school diploma, proof of two years of work experience within the last five years in a selected occupation is required. You can verify whether your occupation qualifies on the O*NET OnLine website.
Experience: Only the selected individual needs to provide evidence of the required education or work experience at the interview (this does not apply to spouses). For our interview, we brought our university diplomas and a confirmation letter from my current job outlining my role.
Completing Forms and Taking a Photograph
This step is crucial and it’s advised to fill out the necessary form as soon as possible.
Since 2014, each applicant completes the DS-260 form online; no longer do we send anything via mail. Access the form by entering your number. An example of a completed DS-260 form is available.
While you can save the form as you fill it out, a printed confirmation page must be brought to the interview.
After completion, you may contact the Kentucky Consular Center (KCCDV@state.gov) to check if the form is complete. Although the officials cannot confirm if you or your relatives meet the green card criteria, they can inform you whether the form is fully completed, which expedites the process.
Always include your number (from the Entrant Status Check – ESC), name, and date of birth when communicating with the center.
My own experience: Upon learning of our lottery win, my husband and I received a unique code in the format 2014EU00017xxx. This number is crucial as it determines the month of your embassy interview. The USA periodically publishes a Visa Bulletin at the start of each month listing the numbers called for that month.
If your assigned number is in the thousands, you will likely be among the earliest in line.
Preparing the Necessary Documents for the Interview
You need to prepare the following documents for your final interview:
- Photographs – two identical photos on 51×51 mm photo paper
- Graduation certificate – possibly a university diploma or a letter from your company confirming work experience
- Birth certificate
- Court and prison documents – if the applicant has a criminal record
- Deportation documents – if the applicant has been previously deported from the USA
- Marriage certificate – if applicable
- Proof of termination of previous marriages – divorce papers, death certificate, etc.
- Military documents – if the applicant has served in the military
- Criminal record
- Adoption documents – if the applicant has adopted a child
Documents must be in English or your native language. If they are in another language, they must be translated into English by a certified translator.
It’s a good idea to create photocopies of the original documents and have them notarized.
Your criminal record doesn’t need to be notarized. For the interview, it’s useful to bring supporting documents such as a bank statement, statement of account balance, or an I-134 form known as the Affidavit of Support. This form, filled out by a U.S. citizen, certifies that they will support the green card holder. A green card applicant must demonstrate the ability to support themselves for one year of living in the USA (as they may not apply for government financial assistance).
My own experience: My husband and I brought two university diplomas, two birth certificates, a marriage certificate, and two translated and notarized criminal records, which cost us approximately $160.
Once you have the translations completed, make photocopies of them. Bring the original documents, their court translations, and copies of the translations to the embassy. The embassy will retain these copies and return the certified translations to you. We had also prepared a certificate of funds and an I-134 form, but the embassy didn’t require or record these documents.
Update as of January 2022: According to a TJ’s experience, translations are no longer required if documents are in English or your native language.
The final essential component that must be completed before an embassy interview is a medical examination by a USA Embassy-approved physician.
You will need to bring a chest X-ray on CD with a report, a medical record from your local doctor, vaccination card, passport, and two passport photos. The clinic will then evaluate the applicant’s general condition, perform a blood test for syphilis, and complete a comprehensive form which the applicant will receive in a sealed envelope upon completion. This envelope is then presented to the embassy.
My Own Experience: My husband and I had this examination at the Polyclinic Na Národní. The price for the examination for one is $675 (updated January 2022). At the clinic, everything went smoothly, everyone was friendly and pleasant. It is advisable to schedule an appointment by phone as soon as you know the date of the embassy interview.
An Interview at the American Embassy in Prague
The applicant will learn when they will be going to the USA Embassy for an interview from the Visa Bulletin on Travel.State.gov. This bulletin will inform you of the exact month, and within about a week of its issuance, the applicant’s status will change on the DV Lottery page. This is the same page where the applicant discovered their win. (I personally received a notification in my email stating that the information on this page had changed, I recommend keeping an eye on this page).
To be interviewed at the embassy, the applicant must prepare a passport, an embassy appointment document, original documents, translations and photocopies of these translations, a sealed envelope from the doctor, a cash application fee of $330 or the equivalent in your currency (cannot be paid by card). These fees must be paid by the applicant and any other “co-applicants” (spouse or children).
Upon arrival at the Embassy, the applicant will undergo a security check before entering the building. Here, all electronic devices, including mobile phones, will be confiscated. After the search, the applicant proceeds to the first floor to the registration window, where a local employee will collect all the necessary documents from the applicant, as well as the application fee.
These items are then passed to the American consul, who invites the applicant to another window for the interview itself. If everything is in order, the applicant will receive an immigration visa for their passport. This visa is valid for six months only. After receiving the immigration visa and before actually travelling to the USA, the applicant must pay an additional fee of $165 to the USCIS account at USCIS.gov.
Our Own Experience: The pleasant lady who invited us both to a single window took all our fingerprints, returned our certified translations. We then had to take an oath and sign it. That was the entirety of our conversation, she informed us that they would contact us within a week with the result.
The day after the interview, we received a phone call and were able to return the following day to collect our passports with our immigration visas granted. We were also handed two large sealed envelopes to present at the airport upon entry into the USA. These immigration visas in your passport are only valid for six months from the date of your interview, but you need to take into account the date of your medical exam. You must enter the USA with a valid medical examination, which is also valid for six months.
The author is Veronika from the Czech Republic. Some parts of the article may vary for individuals selected from other countries. This article was updated on January 10, 2022, based on the experiences of recent card applicants.