The Diversity Visa Program (Green Card Lottery)

By: LawInfo

Each year, some 50,000 immigrant visas are made available each year through a lottery to people who come from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.  These visas are not made available for people who come from countries that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the past five years.  The State Department's National Visa Center holds the lottery every year, and chooses winners randomly from all qualified entries.  If you are selected under this lottery you will be given the opportunity to apply for permanent residence.  If permanent residence is granted, then you will be authorized to live and work permanently in the United States.  You will also be allowed to bring your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States.

Can I really obtain permanent residence (green card) in the U.S. with a diversity lottery system?

Yes. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) allows the opportunity to apply for permanent residence under the diversity lottery system to those individuals from certain countries with low rates of admission into the United States.

What are the requirements to enter the diversity lottery system?

To be eligible, the applicant must:

  • Be from a country designated with low rates of admission;
  • Have either a high school diploma or its equivalent; or
  • Within five (5) years of applying, have at least two (2) years of work experience in an occupation requiring at least two (2) years training or experience.

Who Is Eligible To Apply For The Diversity Visa Program?

In order to be elgible you or your spouse must be a native of a country that is eligible to participate in the Diversity Visa Lottery. You may also be eligible to apply if your parent was born in a country that is eligible to participate. (The State Department will publish the names of countries that are eligible to participate before each year's lottery.)  You must have a high school diploma or the equivalent, defined in the United States as successful completion of a 12 ­year course of elementary and secondary education; or you must have two years of work experience within the last five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform.

How Do I Apply For The Diversity Visa Program?

The Department of State will publish explicit instructions on how to apply in press releases and the Federal Register before the each year's lottery.  It is very important to follow all directions exactly.  Millions of applicants are rejected each year for failure to follow the directions.  You should watch the State Department Website for more information on the Diversity Visa Lottery Program.  Instructions are usually posted in August, and the registration period is usually held in October each year.

How Much Does The Diversity Visa Program Cost?

There is no fee to enter the Diversity Visa lottery.  If you are selected, you will have to pay a fee for an immigrant visa and a separate visa lottery surcharge.

How Do I Find Out If I Won The Diversity Visa Lottery?

If you win, you will be notified by mail at the address listed on your application.  Instructions and information on fees will be sent to the winners.  If you are selected a winner in the diversity visa lottery it does not automatically guarantee that you will be issued a visa, even if you are qualified.  The number of entries selected is greater than the number of immigrant visas available, because not everyone selected will be qualified for the visa or will choose to complete the processing.  The diversity visa program for the year will end once all 50,000 visas have been issued.

Should I Hire A Lawyer To Assist Me With Applying For The Diversity Visa Program?

Hiring a lawyer may be a good idea because the requirements are so strict for the Diversity Visa program that if you fail to follow the instructions to the letter your application may be denied and you’ll have to wait until the next year for your next opportunity.  A LawInfo Lead Counsel qualified immigration lawyer could help you avoid much of the complication and confusion of filing your application for the green card lottery.  Contact an immigration law attorney today to increase your chances of your application being accepted and for this wonderful opportunity to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

How Much Does It Cost To Complete The Green Card Lottery Forms?

There is no charge to download and complete the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form. The Department of State notifies successful Diversity Visa applicants by letter, and not by e-mail.

What Types Of Jobs Qualify For The Green Card Lottery?

The law and regulations require that every diversity visa entrant must have at least a high school education or its equivalent or have, within the past five years, two years of work experience in an occupation requiring at least two years' training or experience. To learn more about qualifying occupations, see the List of Occupations webpage.

What Do The Terms Eligibility, Native, and Chargeability Mean?

Your country of eligibility will normally be the same as your country of birth. Your country of eligibility is not related to where you live. "Native" ordinarily means someone born in a particular country, regardless of the individual’s current country of residence or nationality. For immigration purposes, "native" can also mean someone who is entitled to be "charged" to a country other than the one in which he/she was born under the provisions of Section 202(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

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