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Who is eligible for the USA visa lottery?

The visa lottery, also known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, is a program run by the U.S. Department of State that offers up to 50,000 immigrant visas each year to people from countries with low immigration rates to the United States. Only nationals of qualifying countries can apply for the visa lottery.

What are the basic requirements to apply for the visa lottery?

To be eligible to enter the visa lottery, you must meet these basic requirements:

  • You must be a native of a qualifying country. This is generally a country that has sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the past 5 years. People born in non-qualifying countries can still qualify if their spouse was born in an eligible country.
  • You must have a high school education or equivalent work experience. This means having two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training.
  • You cannot have a criminal record. You are generally ineligible if you have been convicted of a felony, have multiple misdemeanor convictions, or have otherwise violated U.S. law.

Which countries qualify for the diversity visa lottery?

The list of qualifying countries changes each year based on immigration levels over the previous five years. Some countries that often qualify include:

Region Sample of Qualifying Countries
Africa Ghana, Egypt, Ethiopia
Asia Uzbekistan, Nepal, Indonesia
Europe Poland, Albania, Estonia
North America The Bahamas
Oceania Fiji, Papua New Guinea
South America Chile, Guyana

To check the most current list of eligible countries, visit the State Department’s diversity visa lottery website when the application period opens each year.

Are there any restrictions based on country of origin?

Yes, there are some restrictions based on country of chargeability for the diversity visa lottery:

  • No single country can receive more than 7% of the total diversity visas available each year. This means densely populated countries like India, China, and Mexico often hit their visa limits early.
  • People born in countries that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the past five years do not qualify. This includes countries like Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.
  • People born in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan qualify separately from those born in mainland China.

Are there any exceptions to the eligibility requirements?

There are a couple exceptions that allow people to qualify for the diversity visa lottery despite normal restrictions:

  • Special territories: People born in areas administered by the United States like American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands may qualify even if they now live outside those territories.
  • Spouse exception: If you were born in an ineligible country but your spouse was born in an eligible country, you can claim your spouse’s country of birth provided you will be applying for a visa with your spouse.

Can you apply if you have a Green Card or U.S. citizenship?

No, you cannot apply for the diversity visa lottery if you already have U.S. permanent resident status (a Green Card) or U.S. citizenship. The program is specifically for people looking to immigrate to the United States, not people who have already attained those statuses.

Can winners bring family members?

Yes, winners of the diversity visa lottery can bring their spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old. They do not need to apply separately but must be included on your original application.

If you get married after you submit your application but before you have received your visa, you can bring your new spouse. Your spouse will need to independently qualify for the eligibility requirements too.

Do you need a passport to apply for the visa lottery?

No, you do not need a passport to submit the online lottery application. However, you will need a passport to proceed with the visa process if you are selected. You do not need to have a passport when you are filling out the visa lottery application.

Can someone else apply on your behalf?

No, the State Department requires that individuals submit their own visa lottery applications. There are companies that offer services to help prepare your application for a fee but only you can actually submit the application. Responses to the application questions must be based on your own eligibility and background.

Is there an application fee for the visa lottery?

No, there is no fee charged by the U.S. government to enter the diversity visa lottery. You must complete the online application form through the official government website during the registration period each year. There are no costs associated with submitting the online application.

Beware of any outside websites or services that ask you to pay a fee to enter the lottery or submit an application on your behalf.

When can you submit an application?

The diversity visa lottery application period opens for about 30 days each year, generally in early October for the following fiscal year. The exact dates are announced through the State Department’s visa website each year.

The annual application period is your only chance to enter the lottery each year. Applications are not accepted late. The lottery entry form will provide the dates that applications will be accepted for the upcoming year.

How are diversity visa lottery winners selected?

The diversity visa lottery uses a computer-generated random selection process to pick winners. A computer randomly selects entries from among all the applications received for each geographic region.

The computer will randomly select approximately 100,000 entries as the initial winners. However, many will be disqualified during the interview process, so alternate entries are also randomly selected to replace any disqualifications.

All qualifiers have an equal chance of being chosen as long as they are from a qualifying country and submitted the application properly. The timing of your application does not improve your odds.

How will you be notified if you are selected?

If you are selected through the diversity visa lottery, you will receive a notification letter from the State Department through the online system where you submitted your application. This normally occurs within a year of submitting your application.

The confirmation letter will provide further instructions on documents needed, fees to be paid, and deadlines for completing your visa application after being selected.

You can use your confirmation number to check the status of your entry through the diversity visa program website.

What documents do you need to apply if selected?

If you receive confirmation that your entry has been selected, you will need to submit supporting documents to move forward with the visa process. Required documents include:

  • Birth certificate showing you were born in an eligible country
  • Marriage certificate (if applying based on your spouse’s country of eligibility)
  • Police certificates showing you have no criminal record
  • Court records for any past arrests or convictions
  • Passport page showing biographical information
  • Education or work experience documentation
  • Recent photo

You may also need to provide additional documents depending on your specific circumstances. Translations are required for any document not in English.

What are the steps after you are selected?

If you receive notification that you were selected in the diversity visa lottery, you must complete these next steps to get your immigrant visa:

  1. Submit required documents to the visa processing center by the deadline given.
  2. Complete processing fees online.
  3. Schedule and complete an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.
  4. Get required medical exam.
  5. Obtain visa after successful consular interview.
  6. Enter the United States within the allotted visa validity period.

This process must be completed quickly once selected – diversity visas can only be issued during the fiscal year for which you were selected.

Can winning the lottery guarantee you a visa?

No, being selected in the visa lottery does not guarantee that you will receive a visa. It is essentially a chance to apply through the regular immigration process. You must still be eligible under normal immigration law to receive a diversity immigrant visa.

Reasons you can still be denied a visa after winning the lottery include:

  • You do not actually qualify based on work experience or education requirements.
  • You have a disqualifying criminal record.
  • You cannot show evidence of required family relationships.
  • You do not pass the required medical exam.
  • You fail to attend your visa interview.
  • You cannot prove you will not become a public charge.

Winning the lottery does not override normal visa ineligibility criteria. The consular officer will make the final determination on your visa eligibility.

Can you apply more than once?

You are only allowed to submit one diversity visa lottery application each year during the registration period. Duplicate entries are not allowed and will be disqualified if discovered.

However, you can continue to apply each year that you remain eligible for the program. You can submit a new application during each open registration period.

Being selected or denied in past years does not impact your eligibility to reapply. You must enter the lottery each fiscal year you wish to be considered.

What are the chances of being selected?

The odds of being picked as a diversity visa winner are very low, given the amount of applications received each year compared to the 50,000 available visas. In recent years, millions of qualified applications have been submitted annually vying for the 50,000 slots.

For example, in Fiscal Year 2022 over 5.7 million people entered the diversity visa lottery for only 55,000 spots. This represented just under 1% odds of being chosen as a selectee.

Odds can vary slightly each year depending on the number and mix of applicants but remain under 5% in most years. However, there is no cost to apply each year you qualify so you lose nothing by trying.

Can family members apply separately to improve odds?

No, only one entry is allowed per person each fiscal year. The State Department screens for duplicate and fraudulent applications. Submitting multiple entries will disqualify you from that year’s lottery without refund.

Spouses and children under 21 can be included on one primary applicant’s entry. They do not need to apply separately. Submitting separate applications does not improve the odds for family members either.

Do more people from some regions have better odds?

The diversity visa program is specifically designed to give people from regions with lower immigration rates a better chance at U.S. immigration. So people from eligible countries in diverse geographic regions generally have better odds than applicants from areas with already high immigration.

For example, most applicants come from Africa, Europe, and South America since fewer people from these areas have historically immigrated to the U.S. Applicants from these regions likely have better odds than applicants from Asia.

Within each region, applicants from countries with smaller populations have an advantage over countries with larger populations. Smaller countries tend to hit the country caps quickly.


The diversity immigrant visa lottery provides up to 50,000 visas each year to people from countries with low U.S. immigration rates. Only nationals of qualifying countries can apply by submitting the online application form during the 30 day registration period each year.

Winners are chosen at random by computer and then must complete normal immigrant visa processing steps. While the odds of being selected are low given the amount of applicants, the program provides an opportunity for diversity visa hopefuls across the globe. Check each year that you remain eligible for the program.