The green card lottery, officially known as the Diversity Visa Lottery (DV Lottery), allocates 50,000 immigrant visa numbers each year. The idea behind this lottery is to encourage immigration from countries with low rates of emigration to the U.S. There is an annual online registration period (typically open for about one month) every year around October.
Winners are randomly selected by computer and able to pursue permanent residence*. Not every winner will get a green card, only those that meet the requirements (and can prove it) and have completed the entry form accurately.
Roughly 9.4 million people applied for DV-2015 (entry period was October 2013), of which, ~125,000 people were notified that they were eligible to apply for an immigrant visa. Not every winner chooses to pursue permanent residence and at least some applicants will not meet the requirements (e.g. claim to have a high school diploma, but cannot provide proof). The government therefore notifies more than 50,000 people to ensure all visas are used.
DV Program Entry Requirements:
1.) You must be BORN in an eligible country. The green card lottery is based on your country of birth NOT country of citizenship. For many people, that is one and the same, but that is not always the case. If more than 50,000 people from your country of birth immigrated to the U.S. in the last 5 years, your country is not eligible. Unfortunately, this means that folks born in India, China and many others are not eligible to apply.
For DV 2019, these are the countries that have been deemed ineligible:
Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.
2.) You’ve completed high school or its equivalent (12 years of formal education) OR you have two years of work experience within the past five years that required at least two years of training or experience.
If you meet these requirements, entering is simple. You simply log on to the DV Lottery site and submit an electronic form with a digital photograph. The questions are pretty straight-forward and the website has clear instructions. If you are married and/or have children, include them in your entry. Make sure you do, because if you try to add them after you’ve been selected, you will be disqualified.
If you aren’t born in an eligible country, but your spouse was, he/she may apply for the family. If you are both eligible, you may both participate with one entry each. Should one of you win, the other is entitled to apply for permanent residence as a derivative dependent. Married children, children over the age of 21, parents and siblings are not permitted to apply. Be sure to enter only once or you will be disqualified.
Once you have entered, YOU are responsible for checking the status of your entry through your confirmation number on the DV site, usually about 6 months after applying (the site lists the exact dates, it’s generally open for a 2 month period). No one will contact you to tell you that you have been selected or not selected. If during this period, you log on and don’t see any further instructions, you have not been selected.
So what are your chances of winning the green card lottery? It really depends on your birth country and the number of people from that country that decide to play the lottery the same year as you. For DV-2015, the visas were proportioned into 6 different geographic regions, with a maximum of 7 per cent available to each eligible country. The fewer the applicants from your birth country, the better it is for you. For detailed DV Program statistics by country/year, click here.
If you have already applied for your green card through another category, you can still enter the lottery. You may apply while living in the U.S. or from abroad. Keep in mind – if you are selected, getting the green card will still take some time, it’s not immediate. We have met folks who obtained their green card through the lottery, so we know it worked for some lucky individuals.
The entry period for DV-2019 runs from October 18, 2017 to November 22, 2017. Here are the official instructions for the DV-2019 program.
P.S. We would love to hear from folks that have won the green card lottery and successfully obtained a green card. Please leave a comment with the year you entered the lottery and when you actually received your green card.
*If you are a permanent resident, you possess a green card – you will see these words used interchangeably by many. The green card is the actual card itself, which you receive once your permanent residency is approved.
*The content and materials available via Ask Ellis are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.