If you don’t have an eligible family member or a potential employer willing to sponsor you, getting a green card in the U.S. can be difficult. You will, however, have a chance to apply for a green card if you enter and win the Diversity Visa Lottery. The DV Lottery doesn’t have the same family or work requirements as other green card pathways. It’s simple to enter and the next lottery is coming up!
The Diversity Visa Program is the U.S. immigration program that allows people to apply for green cards without needing relatives or employment in the United States. The program is a lottery-based system, available in most countries throughout the world. Every year 50,000 winners are selected from millions of entrants to receive green cards.
There are only a few requirements, including being from an eligible country. Different qualifying countries are chosen each year, based on historical immigration rates to the United States. Countries with low immigration rates, like most African countries, qualify while those with high immigration rates, like Mexico and China, do not.
Winning the Diversity Visa Lottery (also known as the Green Card Lottery), does not guarantee you will receive a green card. Winners still need to officially apply for U.S. permanent residency and may be denied if they do not meet the minimum requirements.
The Diversity Visa Program occurs every year, but how the yearly programs are named is a little tricky. The programs are named for the year the winners are selected, not the year the registration opens. For example, registration for the 2019 lottery took place in the fall of 2017. Registration for the 2020 Diversity Lottery will take place this fall, in 2018.
You can enter the DV Lottery on the website of the U.S. Department of State. In order to enter, you will need to be from an eligible country AND:
- Have at least a high school education or its equivalent, defined as successful completion of a 12-year course of formal elementary and secondary education; OR
- Have two-years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform. The Department of State will use the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net Online database to determine work experience.
The only countries that were NOT eligible in the 2019 lottery were: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), 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.
In order to be eligible for entry, applicants must be considered a “native” of the country. Generally, this means you were born in the country. People born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible.2
Applicants are randomly selected by a computer system on or around May 15 of each year. Part of the selection process is based on allocations of available visas in each region and country from all registered entries. Around that time, you can check the status of your entry online on the Entrant Status Check on the Electronic Diversity Visa (E-DV) website.3
Applicants that are selected can then apply for a U.S. green card through consular processing (if you are living outside the U.S.) or through adjustment of status (if you are living inside the U.S.). They will be required to submit an immigration application, pay applicable fees, and attend an interview.