The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as the green card lottery, is a United States congressionally mandated lottery program for receiving a United States Permanent Resident Card. The Immigration Act of 1990 established the current and permanent Diversity Visa program.
The lottery is administered by the Department of State and conducted under both the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Immigration Act of 1990. The lottery makes 50,000 immigrant visas available annually from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.
What are the requirements to apply for the DV lottery?
There are a few basic requirements in order to apply for the diversity visa lottery:
- You must be a native of a qualifying country. Countries that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the previous five years do not qualify.
- You must have a high school education or equivalent or two years of qualifying work experience within the last five years.
- You must meet the requirements of the diversity visa category.
In general, the diversity visa aims to allow immigration from countries that historically have low rates of immigration to the United States. The application is free and can be submitted electronically during the registration period each year.
When can you apply for the DV lottery?
The DV lottery registration period is very specific each year. Generally, applications open in early October and must be submitted by early November. The exact dates are announced on the State Department’s diversity visa website each year. For reference, here were the registration periods over the past few years:
|October 5 – November 8
|October 6 – November 10
|October 7 – November 10
|October 2 – November 5
As you can see, the registration window is very short – just 4-6 weeks each year. It’s important to be aware of these exact dates so you do not miss the opportunity to apply. The dates are published on the E-DV lottery website each spring for the following year’s registration period.
How do you apply for the diversity visa lottery?
Applying for the diversity visa lottery is straightforward and free. Here are the steps:
- Check your eligibility during the registration period for the program year.
- Submit your electronic diversity visa entry form (E-DV entry form or DS-5501), with required photos, at dvlottery.state.gov during the registration period.
- If you are selected, you will be notified via email by the Kentucky Consular Center.
- If selected, you must meet all eligibility requirements under U.S. law to qualify for a diversity visa.
- If approved, you must pay all required visa fees and submit all necessary processing documents.
Some key points:
- There is no cost to submit the online E-DV entry form.
- You may submit only one entry per registration period.
- Spouses and minor children can be included on your entry.
- Submitting more than one entry will disqualify you.
- Winning the lottery does not guarantee you will receive a visa – you must still complete additional documentation and meet eligibility requirements.
The E-DV entry form asks for basic biographical information including name, birth date, contact information, and photograph. You will also select your country of eligibility. Read the form instructions carefully before submitting your information.
How are DV lottery winners selected?
The diversity visa lottery uses a randomized computer drawing to select applicants. After the registration period closes each year, the Kentucky Consular Center randomly selects 100,000 applicants from among all the entries received globally. However, not all of these applicants will obtain visas due to ineligibility, processing quotas, and visa availability. Here are some key details on how lottery winners are chosen:
- The computer randomly assigns applicants a number. Those randomly selected within the first 50,000 are eligible to continue seeking the visa.
- Lottery winners are selected from geographic regions in proportion to that region’s rate of immigration to the U.S. in previous years. No single country may receive more than 7% of the total diversity visas each year.
- Lottery winners must meet eligibility requirements such as education level or work experience to continue the visa process.
- If you are selected, your spouse and any unmarried children under 21 can also apply for a diversity visa.
- The odds of being chosen depend on the number of applicants from your region each year. Typically millions of people apply annually from around the world.
In summary, a computerized random selection process picks 100,000 applicants. Regional quotas then determine how those applicants are allocated among regions. Finally, each applicant must still meet eligibility criteria to qualify for a visa appointment.
When are results announced for the DV lottery?
Applicants for the diversity visa lottery can expect to see results in early May following the registration period. Here is when lottery entrants can check the status of their application:
- May: The initial lottery results are released, notifying the first 100,000 selected applicants.
- June – July: The Kentucky Consular Center processes the selected applications and notifies those who are eligible for visa interviews.
- September: The full list of lottery winners is released publicly, sorted by region and country.
- September 30: The previous year’s diversity visa program closes, and unused visa numbers expire.
- October: The next diversity visa lottery registration opens for the following year.
- May 1 – Registration status check available online
- September 30 – Approximate visa deadline
- October – New lottery registration opens
The diversity visa program operates on a U.S. fiscal year timeline, from October through September of the following year. Winners are encouraged to complete their visa process early, as visa availability expires at the end of the fiscal year. Processing times can vary widely depending on your country and specific circumstances.
What are the odds of winning the green card lottery?
The odds of winning the diversity visa lottery depend on a few factors, since winning is based both on random chance and your country of origin. Here are some details to consider about your chances:
- Each year millions of people apply from around the world. For example, in fiscal year 2022 over 8 million people applied.
- Only 55,000 diversity visas are available each year. For fiscal year 2022, only 61,000 applicants were selected from 8.7 million entries.
- Your chances increase if you are from a country that has sent fewer immigrants recently to the United States.
- Countries are limited to no more than 7% of the total visas each year.
- Use the official statistics by region and country to estimate your odds.
- There is no cost to apply, so there is little downside to submitting an entry.
Based on these factors, your chances can vary dramatically based on your country of origin, since less populous nations with fewer immigrants will have better odds. In general, expect your probability of being chosen to be less than 1%. Focus on submitting just one complete and eligible application, then hope to beat the odds.
Can someone help me apply for the green card lottery?
There are a few options if you need help applying for the diversity visa lottery:
- Use the official instructions and resources published by the U.S. Department of State.
- Ask an immigration lawyer for guidance on eligibility and the application process.
- Search online forums and groups for others applying from your country.
- Seek help from a friend or relative who has strong English skills.
- Avoid “visa agents” who charge a fee to submit your application.
The e-DV entry form itself should be straightforward for anyone to understand and complete in English. However, it’s reasonable to seek guidance and a second pair of eyes, particularly if English is not your native language. Just be sure to use official government sources of information or verified legal assistance. And remember – there should never be a fee associated with submitting your basic lottery entry.
What are common mistakes on DV lottery applications?
When completing the online entry form for the diversity visa lottery, applicants can make inadvertent mistakes that lead to disqualification. Here are some common errors to avoid:
- Submitting more than one entry per person during the registration period.
- Failing to include a required photograph of the primary applicant and spouse.
- Uploading an invalid or non-recent passport style photograph.
- Entering incorrect family information such as age or relationship details.
- Failing to provide a valid email address and phone number.
- Neglecting to sign the e-DV entry form electronically.
- Making a mistake on your birth date, name, or country of eligibility.
- Forgetting to note family members such as a spouse or children.
Carefully review the e-DV instructions each year before submitting your information. Set aside adequate time to complete the form fully and accurately. Double check details like your birth date and photograph format. Use an email address you check regularly so you do not miss important lottery updates. With attention to detail, you can avoid common mistakes that get applications disqualified.
What disqualifies you from the DV lottery?
There are a few key reasons you may be disqualified from the diversity visa lottery:
- Country of origin: You are not eligible if you were born in a country that already has high immigration levels to the U.S.
- Education and work experience: You must meet minimum requirements of either qualifying education or work experience.
- Photograph errors: Uploading an old, blurry, or invalid photograph format will disqualify you.
- Invalid relationships: Listing false family relationships or details will make you ineligible.
- More than one entry: Submitting multiple applications will get you immediately disqualified.
In addition, providing fraudulent or inaccurate information of any kind on the E-DV entry form will also lead to a disqualification. The State Department comprehensively vets lottery winners to affirm eligibility, so any misrepresentation will be discovered. Make sure you carefully study the instructions and fully understand the rules to avoid a disqualification.
What are the steps after winning the DV lottery?
If you are fortunate enough to be selected in the diversity visa lottery, there are a series of steps required to complete the immigration process:
- Confirm selection online: Check the E-DV website in May to see if you were selected in the lottery.
- Submit DS-260 form: Complete and submit your visa application form online.
- Collect documents: Gather financial, criminal, and identity documents required for the visa application.
- Complete interview: Attend an in-person interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate.
- Obtain medical exam: Undergo a medical exam with an authorized doctor.
- Receive visa package: If approved, your passport with visa will be mailed to you.
- Pay fees: Fees must be paid to the embassy and for visa processing.
- Enter the U.S.: Enter the country within the validity window of your diversity visa.
The documentation requirements and processing times vary by country, so prepare for a lengthy process. Work with the Kentucky Consular Center and U.S. embassy in your country to efficiently complete all steps. The entire process can realistically take 12-18 months.
What documents do you need after winning the lottery?
If selected in the diversity visa lottery, you will need to submit extensive documentation to prove eligibility and complete the visa application process. Some of the key documents include:
- Valid, unexpired passport with at least 6 months validity
- Birth certificate showing names of parents
- Marriage certificate (if applicable)
- Police certificates showing no criminal record
- Court records for any offense or arrest
- Proof of education or work experience
- Proof of funds to support yourself in the U.S.
- Medical examination and immunization records
In addition, you will need to provide photographs, a completed visa application form (DS-260), and extensive biographical information. Assume you will need to document details of your education, work history, residence history, family relationships, and any criminal record. Obtaining some documents can take significant time, so start assembling your paperwork as soon as you are selected.
Can I bring my family if I win the lottery?
Yes, if you win the diversity visa lottery you may be able to bring your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age. Your spouse and children can apply for a diversity visa and immigrate to the U.S. with you if:
- You included them on your original lottery entry form.
- The relationship to you is proven with official documentation.
- Your spouse and any children apply for a visa within your visa validity period.
- Your family members also meet all required eligibility criteria.
Your derivatives (spouse and children) can only receive a diversity visa if you remain eligible for the visa as the primary applicant. Talk to the consular officer about your family during your visa interview. Your family will also need to provide extensive documentation, undergo medical exams, and be issued visas before the deadline.
Parents, siblings, and other family members cannot immigrate with you through the diversity visa program. But after becoming a lawful permanent resident, you may be able to sponsor additional family members through another immigration process.
How much does it cost to apply and immigrate on the DV lottery?
There is no cost to initially submit the online application for the diversity visa lottery. If selected, you will need to pay all required visa application fees and visa processing charges. Costs are generally a few hundred dollars per person, with some additional expenses. Here are the typical costs:
- Diversity visa application (DS-260 form): No fee
- Diversity visa lottery processing fee: $330 per person
- Medical examination: $100-200 per person
- Interview travel costs: Variable
- Document translation: If needed
- Attorney fees: Optional but can be $1,000+
In addition, if you are already living in the United States under a different visa, you will need to pay $330 to file for adjustment of status after being selected in the lottery.
The fees are paid only after you are selected and begin formally applying for the visa. Costs are paid to the U.S. embassy or consulate where you are interviewed. The total costs for a primary applicant often amount to $1,000 – $1,500 including family members.
The diversity visa lottery offers a remarkable opportunity to legally immigrate to the United States from countries that historically have had low immigration rates. The lottery is competitive, but completely free to enter each year during the registration window. Understand the requirements for education, work experience, and country of origin to maximize your chances. Read the State Department website and instructions closely. With persistence and luck, you may be able to win the green card lottery!