US Green Card Lottery: Everything You Need To Know

8 months ago

US Green Card Lottery: Everything You Need To Know

Annually, the Diversity Visa initiative randomly selects over 50,000 individuals exclusively from nations with limited representation in US immigration. These fortunate individuals are granted what is commonly denoted as a green card, a key to permanent residency in the United States. This program serves as a pivotal pathway for those individuals and families devoid of alternative legal channels to migrate to the United States.


Diversity Visa Lottery Introduction

The green card lottery, which is also called the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, is like a lottery run by the U.S. government. If you win, you get a green card, which lets you live in the United States forever. This program started in 1990 because of a law called the Immigration Act of 1990. The Diversity Immigrant Visa program falls within the jurisdiction of the Department of State, with its primary purpose being to facilitate the immigration of a diverse spectrum of individuals to the United States. 

To engage in the Diversity Visa lottery, also known as the green card lottery, interested parties must complete a straightforward online application, a process that entails no associated costs. The application window for this lottery initiates yearly, spanning from early October to early November. Following this, a computerized system employs a random selection mechanism to identify the fortunate beneficiaries of green cards, who, in turn, extend this privilege to their immediate kin or family members.


  • Diversity Visa Cost

Participating in the green card lottery does not necessitate a financial investment. Nevertheless, individuals selected in the lottery, who intend to submit an application for a Diversity Visa, must be prepared to fulfill the requisite application charges for the green card. Post-selection, comprehensive information regarding these charges can be located on the Diversity Visa website.


  • Diversity Visa Timeline

Typically, triumphant entrants in the green card lottery ascertain their success roughly seven months subsequent to submitting their applications. Following selection, there exists a potential waiting period of up to 14 months before individuals can schedule their mandatory interviews and subsequently secure their visas. The exact duration of this waiting interval is contingent upon the timing of one's visa application.

As an illustration, if an individual submitted their green card lottery application between October and November of 2021 for the 2023 lottery, the declaration of victors would manifest around May 2022. The window for visa applications only spans fiscal year 2023, specifically from October 1, 2022, to September 30, 2023. 

Those who submit their applications earlier in the fiscal year have the opportunity to expedite the scheduling of their visa interviews and the subsequent acquisition of their visas. Upon obtaining their visas, beneficiaries must ensure their arrival in the United States transpires on or before the expiration date specified on the visa itself. Generally, a Diversity Visa retains its validity for up to 6 months from the date of issuance.


Eligibility for the Diversity Visa

In order to initiate your application for a Diversity Visa, you must fulfill two primary prerequisites:


  • Place of Birth

To be eligible for the Diversity Visa, you must hail from a nation that has dispatched fewer than 50,000 immigrants to the United States within the preceding 5 years. The roster of qualifying countries may undergo subtle alterations each year. Nonetheless, countries such as Canada, China, India, Mexico, and the United Kingdom perennially remain ineligible due to their substantial immigration figures to the United States.

For the 2023 submission period, individuals from these nations were barred from applying:

  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China 
  • 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
  • Vietnam

You can find a complete list of eligible countries on the State Department's website. If your home country isn't eligible, there are still two ways you can become eligible for the Diversity Visa:

  • If your spouse was born in an eligible country, you may apply conjointly, designating your spouse's nation of birth on your application.
  • In the event that neither of your parents held legal resident status in your birthplace, you are entitled to select the nation of birth of either your mother or father.


  • Education

The second pivotal condition for prospective Diversity Visa candidates dictates that you must have achieved a high school diploma or accumulated a minimum of two years of occupational experience over the preceding five years in a vocation that necessitates a training period of at least two years, as prescribed by the US Department of Labor.

How to Enter the Green Card Lottery?

Participation in the lottery process is a straightforward endeavor. You initiate this process by completing a form on the official State Department's website during the stipulated application window, which traditionally spans from early October to the commencement of November. Although most inquiries are readily comprehensible, a few may demand supplementary elucidation:

  • When specifying your "country of birth," it is imperative to identify the nation where you entered the United States, irrespective of any nomenclatural changes that may have occurred since your birth. Employ the contemporary appellation of the country.
  • Regarding the selection of your "country of eligibility," you possess the liberty to enumerate either your native land of birth or if you meet the criteria, the homelands of your spouse or progenitors. Your current abode bears no significance in relation to this particular inquiry.
  • Inclusion of your spouse in the application is mandatory, even if cohabitation is not your present circumstance, and their aspirations do not align with accompanying you in the immigration process.
  • The enumeration of all biological and adopted offspring, regardless of their age, is a prerequisite. Furthermore, it is imperative to include all stepchildren under the age of 21, even if their marital bonds with their parents have been severed.
  • Additionally, you will be mandated to provide recent photographs (captured within 6 months) of yourself, your spouse, and your children. Strict adherence to the same photographic requisites as specified for a green card application is paramount.
  • Following the submission of your application, it is of utmost importance to retain your confirmation number. This number serves as the sole means to ascertain if you have been selected.
  • After you send in your application, it's really important to hold onto your confirmation number. This number is the only way to find out if you've been chosen.


  • Entering the Lottery

Participation in the Green Card Lottery is contingent upon online engagement. When you decide to partake, you must diligently complete the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form (DS-5501) during the prescribed timeframe. This form solicits your name, date of birth, and particulars regarding your educational background and occupational history. Additionally, it necessitates the provision of a visual representation that conforms to the delineated image guidelines. To ensure the prudence of your submission, a thorough review of all provided information is indispensable, while common pitfalls should be diligently sidestepped.


  • How to Sign Up?

The manner and timeframe for registration fluctuate on an annual basis. Typically, the window opens in October and concludes in November. For the 2024 DV Lottery, prospective entrants were granted access on October 5, 2022, with a deadline of November 8, 2022, at 12 PM ET to complete their submissions. When they say you can sign up, go to the DV lottery page and put in your details.


  • How do They Pick the Winners?

Upon the cessation of the registration period, an automated system is harnessed to select fortunate individuals who will be afforded the opportunity to participate in the Diversity Visa Program. Each submission is assigned a distinctive identifier, and only those possessing valid identifiers stand eligible for potential selection. Selection is contingent upon geographical diversity, with an allocation of visas apportioned to diverse regions of the world to circumvent an undue concentration of beneficiaries from any single locale. Stringent guidelines dictate that no individual country may claim more than 7% of the available Diversity Visas within any given year.

While precise timetables may be subject to variation, individuals who have partaken in the Diversity Visa lottery may commence the process of ascertaining their application status at the inception of May in the subsequent year following their application. This can be accomplished through the utilization of the Entrant Status Check link on the Diversity Visa webpage. Thus, safeguarding the aforementioned confirmation number assumes a paramount role, as it is the solitary means to ascertain whether one's fortune has been favorable.

Should one emerge triumphant in the green card lottery, the ensuing pathway to permanent residency entails compliance with the identical requisites confronting any other aspiring U.S. green card recipient. Specific types of criminal records may render an individual ineligible, and certain medical conditions may pose impediments, or even insurmountable obstacles, to the attainment of a green card.


  • What Comes Next?

When you emerge as the chosen candidate in the Green Card lottery, it becomes imperative to take prompt action, notwithstanding the possibility of it being a year or more before you can embark on your journey to the United States. Two compelling factors necessitate this expeditious response. Firstly, the processing of your application and the issuance of your visa must culminate by the conclusion of the fiscal year corresponding to your selection. Secondly, the number of individuals favored with the Diversity Visa exceeds the availability of visas, and procrastination may lead to an unfortunate depletion of visa slots.

Upon receiving the announcement of your triumph in the Diversity Visa lottery, you will be furnished with a numerical identifier delineating the opportune moment for initiating your visa application. Toward the conclusion of the month of July, you may consult the State Department's visa bulletin to ascertain the commencement date for submitting your application. The inception of visa availability transpires on the first day of October, marking the commencement of the United States government's fiscal year, thereby enabling submissions up to 90 days in advance.


  • If You are Outside the United States

The majority of individuals selected for the Diversity Visa find themselves beyond the geographical boundaries of the United States and consequently embark on the green card application process through the United States consulate in their country of origin. 

The moment you discern the availability of a visa slot, it is imperative to diligently complete Form DS-260 in collaboration with the National Visa Center. Subsequently, upon the completion of the processing of your application, it will be forwarded to the U.S. consulate, which will then orchestrate the crucial visa interview. Should you successfully fulfill all prerequisites, an affirmation of your immigrant visa will be conferred during the interview.


  • If You are in the United States

If you presently reside within the United States under the aegis of a temporary immigration status, denominated as "non-immigrant status," at the juncture of emerging victorious in the Diversity Visa lottery, your trajectory toward acquiring a green card materializes through the auspices of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This is accomplished through the submission of Form I-485. Prompt submission of your application is imperative, synchronized with the visa bulletin's availability.


What Happens if I am Selected?

Upon accessing your status verification, the revelation of your elevation as an appointed beneficiary of the Diversity Lottery Visa will unfold. Should you emerge as one of the fortunate victors, it signifies the commencement of your voyage through the intricate pathways of the application procedure. 

Nevertheless, allow me to offer a piece of advice: refrain from hastily severing ties with your abode, vehicle, or occupation. It is of utmost importance to meticulously adhere to the prescribed protocols. Being selected in the lottery does not guarantee the acquisition of the visa. The primary stride necessitates the submission of the Diversity Visa application. If your application garners approval, you may then proceed with your exciting plans with unwavering assurance.


  • Submit The Visa Application Form

The crucial task at hand entails the fulfillment of Form DS-260, the Online Immigrant Visa Application. Fret not, for this constitutes a straightforward online procedure. To commence, ensure that your confirmation number is readily available.  Utilize this unique identifier to gain access to the form. A brief recommendation: when inputting your confirmation number, forgo the inclusion of any superfluous zeros. 

For instance, if your designated number reads as 2020BG0000012345, simply input '2020BG12345.' Upon completion of the form, proceed with its submission. Following submission, you will receive a confirmation page, the vigilant safeguarding of which is imperative. Be sure to retain it diligently.


  • Gather the Supporting Documents

As the time for your interview approaches, ensure that you have all necessary supporting documents prepared. They should be in English and do not overlook the importance of presenting the originals. To be on the side of caution, it is advisable to have them translated by a licensed translator to ensure precision. While the US Embassy will undoubtedly require the authentic documents, it is prudent to carry additional copies, just as a precautionary measure. Here is a list of the documents you will require:

  • Your original passport.
  • Two Diversity visa photos for each person in your family if you're applying together.
  • Proof of your education and employment records.
  • Birth certificates of you and your family.
  • Court, prison, and police records.
  • Marriage certificates or proof of divorce.
  • Military records, if applicable.
  • Any additional documents that the US Embassy might request.
  • Complete a medical examination

If you are in the process of pursuing a US immigrant visa, a thorough medical examination is mandatory. This process entails receiving all requisite vaccinations and completing designated medical forms. Do not fret; a licensed medical practitioner will be present to facilitate this process and complete the necessary paperwork following your examinations. You are in capable hands!


  • Attend the Interview

The US Embassy will establish contact with you to schedule an interview for your Diversity Visa. It is imperative that you are present at the appointed date and time for the interview. Do not overlook the necessity of bringing the following essential documents:

  • Your Appointment Letter, which you can get from the Diversity Visa website once you check your selection status.
  • Your Form DS-260 confirmation letter.
  • Your passport and some photographs.
  • Your medical examination forms.
  • Any supporting documents you may have.

During the interview, the consular officer will ask you a few questions to determine if you're eligible for the DV visa. The decision regarding your visa approval will be made during the interview, or you'll be informed within a few weeks afterward.


Impact of the Green Card Lottery on Diversity

The primary objective of the Green Card Lottery is to foster diversity within the United States. This initiative seeks to afford individuals from nations with historically low immigration rates the opportunity to contribute their distinct talents and perspectives to American society. The fortunate recipients of the lottery bring a rich tapestry of diversity in terms of culture, language, skills, and life experiences, which serve to enrich the social, economic, and cultural fabric of the nation. Their valuable contributions in the realms of innovation, entrepreneurship, and the exchange of ideas create a vibrant and multicultural milieu.


  • What Happens After I Get The Diversity Visa?

Congratulations on the successful endorsement of the Diversity Visa on your passport! Now, it is time to orchestrate your relocation to the United States, and I am here to provide guidance throughout the process in an affable and informative manner. Initially, it is essential to make requisite arrangements, which encompass purchasing your tickets and addressing the USCIS fee, amounting to $220. 

However, rest assured that the fee is not due until the visa is in your possession, alleviating the need for an upfront payment. When you are prepared to journey to the United States for the first time, it is imperative to have all pertinent documents in your possession. US immigration officials will scrutinize your paperwork, underscoring the importance of thoroughness. 

After successfully establishing your residence in the United States, the subsequent step is the completion of Form I-485, recognized as the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to USCIS. This application incurs a fee of $1,140, which is mandatory. Once the payment is settled, a few weeks' wait is all that remains before USCIS dispatches your Green Card to your new address.


  • Criticisms and Controversies Surrounding the Green Card Lottery

While the Green Card Lottery has its advantages, it has also faced criticism and controversy. Critics argue that the random selection process doesn't prioritize individuals with specialized skills or qualifications that could benefit the United States.

They suggest that a merit-based system would be better suited to address the country's needs. Moreover, discussions about the lottery have sparked debates about its fairness and impartiality, with concerns raised about individuals from specific countries having too much influence on the selection process due to their high participation rates.


  • Avoiding Tricks

Sadly, some people try to scam hopeful immigrants through the Diversity Visa program. Here are a couple of tips to steer clear of common scams related to the Diversity Visa:

  • Entering the Diversity Visa lottery doesn't cost anything. If someone says they're collecting a fee on behalf of the Department of State, they're trying to scam you.
  • The Department of State won't notify winners by mail or email. The only way to know if you've been chosen is to check your application using Entrant Status Check.

Entering the Diversity Visa lottery is like entering any other lottery, and the chances of winning aren't high. But if luck is on your side, it can be a way to come to the United States even if you don't have any family or employment connections. However, if you're married to a U.S. citizen, applying for a marriage green card is almost certainly the faster option.


Final Thoughts

Even if you are "in line" to receive your green card through another method, you might want to think about applying for the lottery as it is free to do so. Despite being a lottery, there are guidelines that must be followed; these are described in the instructions. Before applying, carefully read them. Since you can only apply once a year, you don't want a little application error to prevent you from achieving your ambition.


Did You Know?



  • Can I enter the green card lottery if I'm married to a U.S. citizen or have other families in the United States?

You can still enter the Diversity Visa lottery if you're married to a U.S. citizen. However, it's not usually the best choice because you'll almost always be able to come to the United States sooner by applying for a marriage-based green card.


  • Can I enter the Diversity Visa lottery if I’m in the United States?

Absolutely, you can participate in the green card lottery from anywhere, even if you're currently in the United States.


  • How much does it cost to enter the green card lottery?

Entering the Diversity Visa lottery is free of charge. However, if you're chosen and decide to apply for a Diversity Visa, you'll need to pay the mandatory green card application fees.


  • Why was the Diversity Visa lottery established?

The Diversity Visa program was created in 1990 through the Immigration Act to enhance the diversity of immigrants coming to the United States. Historically, most immigrants came from a few countries. Congress introduced the Diversity Visa to increase immigration from smaller and less-represented nations. If you have another family member who could sponsor your green card, it might still be worth it to enter the Diversity Visa lottery. Some family-based immigration categories, like siblings of U.S. citizens, can take a very long time, and winning the Diversity Visa lottery could get you to the United States much faster.


  • How many Diversity Visas are given to each eligible country?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) figures out the number of Diversity Visas each country gets based on a formula outlined in Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). No country can receive more than 7% of the total number of Diversity Visas available each year.


  • Is there a minimum age to apply for a Diversity Visa?

No, there's no specific age requirement. However, if you haven't completed high school or gained work experience, you might not be eligible if you're under 18.


  • Can my spouse and I each submit separate entries?

Yes, both you and your spouse can submit your own Diversity Visa applications. If one of you is selected, the other spouse can also get a green card as your dependent.


  • What if I’ve lost my confirmation number?

Your confirmation number is crucial for checking your application status online. If you misplace it, you can retrieve it using the email address you used during the registration process.


  • How long does it take to get a Diversity Visa?

The green card lottery winners usually find out about their success 7 months after applying. After that, it can take up to 14 months for the government to schedule your interview and grant your visa. The timing depends on when you apply.