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What is the lottery citizenship of the United States?

The United States has a lottery system for obtaining citizenship known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. This program allows people from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S. to apply for a visa through a lottery system. Up to 55,000 diversity visas are available each year through this program. Obtaining one of these visas and completing other immigration requirements allows immigrants to become lawful permanent residents and eventually citizens of the U.S.

What is the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program?

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as the green card lottery, is a program run by the U.S. Department of State that allows people from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States to apply for a permanent resident visa, also known as a green card, through a lottery system.

The program makes up to 55,000 diversity visas available each year to applicants from eligible countries. The visas must be used to immigrate to the United States within the fiscal year for which they are issued. If all 55,000 diversity visas are not used in a given year due to processing delays, etc., the unused visas may be made available the following year.

The goals of the diversity visa program are:

  • To provide an immigration opportunity for citizens from countries other than the major sending countries of current immigrants to the United States.
  • To maintain a diverse population within the United States.

Eligibility for the Diversity Visa Program

To be eligible for a diversity visa through the green card lottery, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • They must be native of a qualifying country – Countries excluded from participating include Mexico, China, India, Philippines, and others that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the previous 5 years.
  • They must have a high school education or equivalent or 2 years of qualifying work experience within the last 5 years.
  • They must have no criminal record or other immigration-related ineligibility issues.

In addition, applicants can only enter the lottery once each year during the registration period. People who obtain diversity visas cannot apply for their spouses or children afterwards – they must be included on the original application. There are also strict requirements around photograph submission with entries.

The Diversity Visa Registration Process

Applying for the diversity visa lottery involves the following steps:

  1. Check eligibility – Make sure you are from an eligible country and meet other requirements.
  2. Submit entry – Entries can only be submitted online and during the designated registration period each year, typically in October. Photos and other documentation are required.
  3. Check selection – A computer randomly selects applicants and notifies selectees through the online system in May of the following year. Only about 1% of qualified entries are selected.
  4. Complete visa application – Selectees must submit a formal visa application through the DS-260 online form within the designated timeframe.
  5. Attend interview – All applicants must attend an in-person interview at their nearest consular office.
  6. Obtain medical exam – Applicants must complete a medical exam with an approved doctor to show they do not have health conditions that would make them ineligible.
  7. Enter the U.S. – If approved, applicants may enter the U.S. with their diversity immigrant visa within 6 months.

The registration period for submitting lottery entries typically occurs for about 30 days every October. The exact dates are announced each year on the E-DV lottery website. During the registration period, applicants must submit their information, photograph, and other documentation through the online entry form at There is no cost or fee to submit the online lottery entry form.

Diversity Visa Registration Requirements

To successfully register for the green card lottery, applicants must:

  • Submit their name, birth information, contact information, photograph meeting requirements, and background information through the online form.
  • Provide information on their spouse and all unmarried children under 21 years old, if applicable. They must be listed on the original entry.
  • Submit education or work experience information showing they meet eligibility requirements.
  • Provide country or countries of eligibility.
  • Review information carefully for accuracy before submitting – mistakes can lead to disqualification.
  • Obtain a confirmation number and save it to show entry was submitted successfully.

Only one entry is allowed per person each registration period. Any duplicate or fraudulent entries will result in disqualification from the lottery.

Being Selected in the Diversity Visa Lottery

Millions of people register each year for the green card lottery, but only about 1% of entries are selected through the randomized computer drawing. The lottery uses regional allocations and random selection to choose from the qualified entries.

Notification of selection typically occurs in May following the registration period. Selectees are notified through the online system using the confirmation number they received when submitting their entry. The notification will provide further instructions on next steps in the visa application process.

Being selected through the lottery does not guarantee someone will receive a visa, as they must still complete all documentation, paperwork, and other immigration requirements within the designated timeframes. But selection is a crucial first step that opens up the possibility of eventually obtaining permanent U.S. residence.

Diversity visa selectees and their spouse and children will need to act quickly to complete required paperwork within the necessary deadlines. Visas must be obtained and used to enter the U.S. within the fiscal year for which the lottery applies.

Diversity Visa Selectees’ Next Steps

Those selected through the diversity visa lottery must complete a number of next steps on a short timeline:

  • Submit visa application – All selected applicants must submit a DS-260 visa application form online for themselves and family members within the designated period.
  • Prepare supporting documents – Documents like birth certificates, marriage certificates, police certificates, and passports need to be prepared.
  • Complete consular interview – Selected applicants must schedule and complete an in-person interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.
  • Get medical exam – Applicants must have a medical exam with an authorized doctor to show they do not have health conditions making them inadmissible.
  • Pay fees – Visa fees and the $220 diversity visa lottery fee per person must be paid.
  • Enter U.S. – If approved, applicants must enter the U.S. with their diversity visa before the end of the fiscal year.

Failure to complete all requirements and process steps in time may result in losing eligibility to immigrate. Extensions are limited, so selectees must act quickly.

Immigrating with a Diversity Visa

Once all requirements are met, diversity visa holders can immigrate to the United States as lawful permanent residents. This allows them to live and work in the U.S. permanently and apply for U.S. citizenship after meeting eligibility requirements.

To immigrate with a diversity visa, applicants must:

  • Have their application approved – The consular officer must approve the visa application after reviewing documents and completing the interview.
  • Obtain visa package – The diversity visa holder will be issued a sealed packet containing visa documents.
  • Pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee – This $220 fee must be paid for each diversity visa holder to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Enter U.S. – Diversity visa holders must enter the U.S. within 6 months of being issued a visa or risk losing lawful permanent resident status.
  • Process at U.S. port of entry – When entering, the visa holder will complete processing with U.S. immigration officials to activate lawful permanent resident status.

New diversity visa immigrants can then apply for a green card, work legally in the U.S., and access benefits like Medicare and Social Security. They are on the path to U.S. citizenship.

How Lottery Winners Become U.S. Citizens

Those immigrating to the U.S. with a diversity visa can eventually apply to become citizens. The process involves:

  • Maintaining permanent residence – A diversity visa holder must keep their lawful permanent resident status for a required period, typically 5 years.
  • Meeting eligibility requirements – They must show good moral character, English proficiency, knowledge of U.S. history and government, and attachment to the U.S. Constitution.
  • Submitting Form N-400 – This application form for naturalization must be completed accurately and filed.
  • Getting fingerprinted – Applicants get fingerprinted for an FBI background check as part of the process.
  • Passing the interview – A USCIS officer will interview the applicant to determine eligibility to become a citizen.
  • Taking the Oath of Allegiance – The oath ceremony makes citizenship official once the application is approved.

It typically takes 5-6 years for diversity visa immigrants to become eligible for U.S. citizenship through this process.

Statistics on the Diversity Visa Program

Here are some key statistics on diversity visa lottery entries and visa issuances:

  • Over 22 million people registered for the diversity visa lottery in fiscal year 2022.
  • In FY 2022, 55,000 diversity visas were available. Just under 46,000 visas were actually issued.
  • For FY 2022, the largest number of diversity visas went to those born in Africa (19,403) and Europe (17,597).
  • In FY 2021, just over 44,500 diversity visas were issued to lottery selectees and family members out of 55,000 available.
  • The countries with the highest diversity visa issuances in FY 2021 were Ukraine (6,908), Egypt (3,563), Morocco (3,323), and Ethiopia (3,268).
  • Diversity visa lottery selectees have about a 1% chance of being chosen each year.

So while millions enter each year, only about 1% are selected. Africa and Europe receive the highest allocation, though a range of countries participate. Overall, the program issues nearly all the 55,000 visas allotted.

Diversity Visa Statistics by Region and Country

Region FY 2021 Visas Issued
Africa 19,332
Asia 3,891
Europe 13,567
North America 9
Oceania 627
South America, Central America, Caribbean 7,102
Country FY 2021 Visas Issued
Ukraine 6,908
Egypt 3,563
Morocco 3,323
Ethiopia 3,268
Nigeria 2,830

Controversies and Debate on the Diversity Visa Program

While the green card lottery aims to encourage immigration from diverse locations, the program has generated some controversies and debate. Arguments against the diversity visa include:

  • It allows arbitrary selection not based on skills or family ties like other immigration categories.
  • Fraud and abuses of the program have occurred, jeopardizing national security.
  • Diversity immigrants take spots that could go to backlogged family visa applicants.
  • The lottery encourages chain migration as winners can sponsor relatives to immigrate.
  • It does not actually increase diversity since many recipients are already well-educated and working in the U.S.

However, proponents argue the lottery provides life-changing opportunities those who have no other path to U.S. immigration. It also allows greater diversity among immigrant groups. Overall research shows diversity visa immigrants integrate well economically.

There have been attempts to eliminate or reform the green card lottery over the years. But it has persisted as an important, if controversial, element of U.S. immigration policy.

Reforms and Changes to the Diversity Visa Program

While the lottery has continued, there have been some reforms and changes to the diversity visa program including:

  • Additional verification procedures to reduce fraud, errors, and abuse.
  • Requiring entrants to have a high school diploma or work experience.
  • Barring eligibility for people born in countries sending over 50,000 immigrants in 5 years.
  • Increasing enforcement against fake marriages arranged just to obtain green cards.
  • Allowing natives of Hong Kong, Poland, and Northern Ireland to enter.
  • Ending eligibility for people born in high-immigration countries like Mexico, China, India.
  • Adding new disqualifying factors like multiple failed entries, criminal records.

Modifications like these have aimed to cut down on fraud and improve the alignment of the program with policy goals. But the lottery system remains in place.


The diversity visa lottery serves as an important opportunity for potential immigrants from underrepresented countries to gain permanent U.S. residence each year. While only about 1% of over 22 million entrants are selected, the program provides up to 55,000 immigrant visas annually through a randomized, lottery-based system.

Winners go through extensive processing including forms, interviews, medical exams and fees. Once completed, diversity visa holders can immigrate to work and live in America, with a pathway to eventual U.S. citizenship. The program remains controversial but has persisted as a central element of America’s legal immigration system. Reforms have aimed to cut fraud but kept the random lottery selection process in place. For thousands seeking the American Dream each year, the diversity visa lottery represents a golden ticket through the complex U.S. immigration maze.