The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program: An Overview
The Diversity Immigrant Visa program is administered by the Department of State as a way to increase the diversity of the immigrants coming to live in the United States.
Each year, the Diversity Visa program allows 50,000 randomly selected people — only from countries that don’t send many immigrants to the United States — to obtain permanent residency (commonly called a “green card”). It’s a way for individuals and families who otherwise wouldn’t have any way to legally immigrate to the United States to get a green card.
What Is a Diversity Visa?
A diversity visa is a green card. Entering the Diversity Visa lottery (aka green card lottery) involves filling out a simple form online, and it doesn’t cost anything. You can enter the lottery every year from early October through early November. The winners are selected at random by a computer, and they and their immediate families receive green cards.
Who Is Eligible for a Diversity Visa?
There are two main requirements when applying for a Diversity Visa.
In order to be eligible for the Diversity Visa, you must have been born in a country that sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the United States over the past 5 years. There is some yearly variation in the countries that are eligible, but Canada, China, India, Mexico, and the United Kingdom never make the list, because these countries all send a large number of immigrants to the United States.
For the 2023 application period, nationals from the following countries were not eligible to apply:
- China (including Hong Kong SAR)
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- South Korea
- United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories
For more information, the State Department provides a list of all eligible countries.
If your native country is not eligible, there are still two ways you could qualify for the Diversity Visa:
- If your spouse was born in an eligible country, you can apply with your spouse and choose your spouse’s birth country on your application.
- If neither of your parents were legal residents in your own country of birth, you can choose your mother or father’s country of birth.
The second major requirement for Diversity Visa applicants is that you must have at least a high school degree, or at least two years of work experience within the past five years in a profession that requires at least two years of training, as determined by the US Department of Labour.
Each year, the Diversity Visa program allows 50,000 randomly selected people — only from countries that don’t send many immigrants to the United States — to obtain permanent residency (commonly called a “green card”).
How to Apply for Diversity Immigrant Visa Program
For an applicant to adjust status under the DV Program, you must establish that you:
- Have been selected for a diversity visa by DOS’s lottery;
- Have an immigrant visa immediately available at the time of filing an adjustment application (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status; and
- Are admissible to the United States.
Supporting Evidence for Form I-485
Submit the following evidence with your Form I-485:
- Two passport-style photographs
- Copy of birth certificate
- Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
- Copy of passport page with nonimmigrant visa (if applicable)
- Copy of passport page with admission (entry) or parole stamp (if applicable)
- Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record
- Certified copies of court records (if the individual has been arrested)
- Copy of the principal applicant’s selection letter for the diversity visa lottery from DOS
- Copy of the receipt from DOS for the diversity visa lottery processing fee
- Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (if applicable)
- Applicable fees
What Security Measures Are in Place for the Diversity Visa Program?
Unfortunately, the Diversity Visa program is sometimes abused by scammers as a way to defraud hopeful immigrants. Here are a couple of tips to avoid common scams related to the Diversity Visa:
- Entering the Diversity Visa lottery is free. Anyone claiming to collect a fee on the Department of State’s behalf is scamming aspiring immigrants.
- The Department of State does not notify winners either by mail or by email; the only way to know if you’ve been selected is to check your application using Entrant Status Check.
Entering the Diversity Visa lottery is like entering any other lottery—the odds of winning aren’t high—but if you’re lucky, it can be a way to come to the United States even if you don’t have any family or employment contacts. If you’re married to a U.S. citizen, though, applying for a marriage green card is almost certainly the better option.
Who Has Received a Diversity Visa?
The winners of the Diversity Visa lottery are chosen at random by a computer program, with a certain number of visas allocated to each region of the world and no one country receiving more than 7% of the Diversity Visas available in any given year.
Which Countries Are Represented among Diversity Visa Recipients?
A complete list of eligible countries is available to view on the State Government website.
For DV-2023, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply, because more
than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous
Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (including Hong Kong SAR), Colombia,
Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria,
Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and
its dependent territories, Venezuela, and Vietnam.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Diversity Visa?
The winners of the green card lottery are generally notified 7 months after applying. It can take up to 14 months to for the government to schedule your interview and issue your visa, depending on how soon you apply for your visa.