Diversity Visa Lottery

In 2021, the Department of State granted 50,000 visas to applicants through the Diversity Visa program. Often called the DV lottery, this program is meant to increase the diversity of immigrants who move to the United States. The DV lottery enriches the U.S. by bringing in culture from a more diverse pool of applicants. 

Winners are selected at random and awarded the chance to apply for a permanent resident card, commonly known as a green card. Unfortunately, some people take advantage of immigrants wishing to enter the U.S. Learn how to apply for the diversity visa lottery and avoid false lottery scams. 

close up of a green card in front of the american flag
A close-up view of a green card in front of the American flag. The Diversity Visa Lottery grants legal entry to up to 50,000 applicants every year.

Understanding the Diversity Visa Lottery

The majority of immigrants who come to live in the United States have historically only represented a few countries in the world. In 1990, George H. W. Bush signed the Immigration Act, which initiated the Diversity Visa Lottery. The DV lottery helps increase the diversity of immigrants from countries with smaller populations or a smaller presence in the United States.

The U.S. State Department selects about 100,000 applicants each year to ensure all 50,000 available diversity visas are utilized. Randomly selected winners and their immediate family members are awarded U.S. green cards. More than 95% of DV lottery winners are foreign nationals living abroad.

Who Is Eligible for the Diversity Visa Lottery?

There are two main eligibility requirements for the Diversity Visa Lottery, as explained in the U.S. Department of State’s instructional video. You must emigrate from a country with few immigrants in the United States. You must also meet the education requirement. 

Country

Not every country qualifies for diversity visas. Your home country must have had fewer than 50,000 immigrants move to the U.S. in the last five years. Large countries (like China or India) or close countries (like Canada and Mexico) send too many immigrants to the U.S. to take part in the DV lottery.

Countries that recently participated in the Diversity Visa Lottery include:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Ethiopia
  • Japan
  • Albania
  • Nicaragua

If your country does not meet eligibility requirements, you can apply with your spouse and choose your spouse’s country of origin on your application. You can also choose your parent’s country of origin if they were not legal residents of your home country when you were born.

Education

The education requirement for a diversity visa is a high school diploma. A general education diploma (GED) will not meet this requirement.

You may also meet the education requirement with two years of work experience from the last five years. Your work experience must be in a field that requires two years of training or apprenticeship.

Only the principal applicant must meet the education requirement. Your spouse and children do not need to meet this requirement.

How Do You Apply for the Diversity Visa Lottery?

Applying for the Diversity Visa Lottery is free and easy. Submit an entry online through the government website. You can also use a service to help you submit a valid Green Card lottery application. Since you have only one chance to submit your application, any mistakes in the application could lead to rejection and you would have to wait till next year to submit an application. So consider using the above service to prepare and submit your DV application.

The application window is typically open from October to November. Each person may only apply once per year. Keep your unique confirmation number so you will know if you are selected.

For clarification purposes, “country of birth” refers to the country where you were born. “Country of eligibility” may refer to the country where your spouse or parents were born.

If you are married or have children, you must list them as family members in your application. It does not matter if you are unofficially separated, your children do not live with you, or they will not be traveling with you.

Winner Selection

A computer program will randomly draw the Diversity Visa Lottery winners. While the drawing is random, the number of visas is allotted by region. No country will receive more than 7% of the visas made available for the DV lottery program.

You can check the status of your application starting in May of the next year. Click on the Entrant Status Check link on the State Department website and enter your confirmation number. 

If You Are Selected for the Diversity Visa Lottery

Check the status of your application early. Winners will not be notified. After being selected, it’s up to you to take action. To ensure every visa made available for the DV lottery program is issued, there will be more winners than visas.

Selected winners are placed on a waiting list and assigned a number. While some winners will be disqualified or forget to check their status, you probably will not get a green card if you are assigned a high number. Visas are awarded to the first 50,000 winners who complete their green card applications. 

DV lottery winners who live in the United States based on legal status may apply for a green card via adjustment of status through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Winners living abroad may apply for a green card through consular processing.

How Much Does the Diversity Visa Lottery Cost?

It’s important to remember that the Diversity Visa Lottery is free to apply. This allows residents of countries underrepresented in the United States to apply every year without financial hardship. 

Winners who apply for a green card and establish their eligibility pay a nonrefundable fee of $330 per person. This fee is paid in person at a U.S. embassy or consulate. 

Scam Risks to Diversity Visa Lottery Applicants

Fraudulent agencies may claim to increase your chances of winning the Diversity Visa Lottery for a fee. Many hopeful immigrants are scammed out of their money in this way. The only way to increase your chances of winning is to have your spouse apply as well. 

Do not allow anyone to apply to the DV lottery for you unless you are in the same room. You risk having your confirmation number held hostage for payment. Unless you are selected as a diversity visa winner, you should not expect to pay anything. To avoid being a victim, keep in mind:

  • The DV lottery is free to apply
  • Each applicant can only apply once per year
  • Winners are not notified by mail, phone, or email
  • Winners will never be asked to pay fees over the phone
  • Your confirmation number is unique and important
  • You must check the Department of State website to know if you win

The application is relatively easy and you should not need anyone’s help. Despite the scams some applicants encounter, the Diversity Visa Lottery is a legitimate path to a U.S. green card.

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