The US Department of State (DOS) offers the Diversity Visa (DV) Program to invite 50,000 foreign nationals annually from countries with low immigration rates to the United States. These applicants are selected randomly from all the entries made every year.
Applicants living in the US and abroad can participate in the lottery. Lottery winners residing in the US will have to immigrate through the Adjustment of Status process while those residing outside the US will have to immigrate through consular processing.
Applying for the Diversity Visa Lottery, also known as the “Green Card Lottery” is a simple process. You just need to fill an online application which is free of cost. The lottery is open every year from early October through early November. Winning applicants can also add their accompanying family members to their applications.
Your eligibility for the Diversity Visa Program depends on the following factors:
Your country of citizenship will be eligible if the number of immigrants sent to the US in the last 5 years has been less than 50,000. Certain countries like China, India, Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom never make the list since the immigration rate from these countries remains consistently high.
All applicants must have:
Once selected, you and your family members will be required to clear all admissibility requirements to enter the US. Having a past criminal record or a serious medical condition can make you inadmissible to enter the US, therefore, hindering you from getting a Green Card.
To enter the Diversity Visa Lottery, you will be required to fill out an application on the State Department website while it's available between early October and early November. It is relatively easy to fill out this application as it requires general information regarding your country of birth, education, spouse, dependent children, etc. After submitting your application, you will receive a confirmation number.
The winners for the Diversity Visa Lottery are selected by a computer program at random. Every year, each country receives no more than 7% of the available Diversity Visas. The results are usually announced in early May in the following year. Applicants can check the status of their application by using the Entrant Status Check Link on the Diversity Visa website.
If you are among the winners of the Diversity Visa lottery, then you must act fast. Diversity Visas must be issued by the end of the fiscal year for which you were selected, therefore, delaying may result in a longer wait time. Also, there are a limited number of Diversity Visas available, if you wait till the last minute, there might not be any left.
Once you are notified that you were selected in the lottery, you will receive a numerical rank that will tell you when to apply for your visa. You can check the visa bulletin at the State Department’s website to check when you can submit your applications. The first visas are usually available by October 1. You can submit your application 90 days before the first visas are available.
If you were selected and you are currently residing outside the US, then you must apply for a Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) through the US consulate closest to you. You can Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application to the National Visa Center (NVC) as soon as the first visas are available. Your application will be forwarded to the US consulate who will then schedule an immigration interview. Once your interview is successful, you will be issued a Green Card.
If you were residing in the US when you were selected, you can simply adjust your status by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Always remember the following information when applying for the Diversity Visa Lottery program to avoid getting into scams:
Being married to a US citizen or having other family members in the US does not affect the results of the DV lottery program. However, if you have such family members in the US, then you should apply for a marriage-based or family-based Green Card.
There are still 2 ways you can still qualify for the DV program, even if your country of citizenship is ineligible:
You have a spouse born in an eligible country. That way you can apply with your spouse and chose their birth country on your application
Neither of your parents is a legal resident of your country of birth. In this case, you can choose either your mother or father’s birth country