The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as Green Card Lottery, Diversity Visa Lottery, or DV Lottery, is a US Government visa program that allots 55,000 immigrant visas (green cards) to foreign nationals of underrepresented countries each year. It is through the green card lottery that immigrant visas are made available to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

The USA green card lottery program is held by the State Department and is open to all individuals from qualifying countries who meet the diversity visa lottery eligibility requirements. The DV lottery runs each year from October to November, where chosen applicants are randomly selected using a computer generated system.

Those who are selected in the DV lottery will be given the opportunity to apply for permanent residency (green card). If permanent residence is granted, then the individual will be authorized to live and work permanently in the United States on the lottery based green card. Chosen candidates are also allowed to bring their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 with them to the United States.

Green Card Lottery Eligibility

Those who can apply for DV lottery must meet the Green Card lottery eligibility requirements. In order to be eligible for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, applicants must:

  • Be a native of a country that has had low immigration rates to USA.
  • Be a native of a country that has not sent 50,000 immigrants to the US in the past 5 years.
  • Meet the education or work qualification (see below).
  • Have proof of education or work experience to provide during the visa lottery interview, if selected.
  • Not engage in illegal activities or have any criminal charges.
  • Be in good mental and physical health.
  • Be able to work and support themselves in the US.

Education and Work Qualification

To fulfill the education and work qualification of the DV lottery eligibility requirements, green card lottery applicants 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
  • 2 years of work experience within the last 5 years in an occupation that requires at least 2 years of training or experience to perform.

To determine whether your occupation meets the qualifying occupation requirements, visit the Department of Labor sponsored O*Net Online Database, select your occupation category, and read the description of your specific occupation.

Ineligible Countries for Green Card Lottery

Even if applicants meet most of the visa lottery requirements, they may not be able to apply for Green Card lottery based on their country. Not all citizens of all countries are allowed to apply for USA diversity visa lottery. Citizens from countries that have already sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the US in the past 5 years are not eligible.

Foreign nationals of the following countries were not eligible for DV 2016.

  • 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 territories, and Vietnam
  • Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and Taiwan were eligible.

This means that you or your spouse must be a native of a country that is eligible to participate in the DV lottery. You may also be eligible to apply if your parent was born in a country that is eligible to participate. The State Department publishes the eligible countries for Green Card lottery each year.

Apply for Green Card Lottery

Before each year's lottery drawing, the Department of State will publish detailed instructions on how to apply for DV lottery in the Federal Register. Instructions are usually posted in August of each year, and the registration period is usually held in October.

To apply for DV lottery, applicants should visit www.dvlottery.state.gov to submit their entries during the registration period. The Department of State only accepted electronically submitted Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Forms. Keep in mind the following information when applying for green card lottery.

  • If an applicant submits more than one entry, all entries will be disqualified, regardless of who submitted the entry. Applicants may prepare and submit their entry themselves, or have someone submit the entry for them.
  • Successfully registered entries will result in the display of a confirmation screen containing the applicant's name, date of birth, country of chargeability, and a date/time stamp. The applicant should print this confirmation screen for his/her records.
  • Paper entries will not be accepted.
  • The entry will be disqualified if all required photos are not submitted. Recent photographs of the applicant and his/her spouse and each child under 21 years of age, including all natural children as well as all legally-adopted and stepchildren (except a child who is already a US citizen or a Legal Permanent Resident), even if a spouse or child no longer resides with the applicant or is not intended to immigrate under the DV program, must be submitted electronically with the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form. Group or family photos will not be accepted; there must be a separate photo for each family member.

USA Green Card Lottery Costs

There is no fee for entering the diversity visa lottery. If you are selected in the green card lottery, you must pay a fee for your immigrant visa and a separate visa lottery surcharge.

Notification of Green Card Lottery Selection

Only winners will be notified by mail at the addresses listed on their applications. Winners will be sent instructions and information on fees. Being selected as a winner in the diversity visa lottery 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 an immigrant visa or will choose to complete the processing. Once all 50,000 visas have been issued, the diversity visa program for the year will end.

Further Information

For more details on the green card lottery and entry details, visit Diversity Visa Lottery Process on the Department of State website for more information on the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. You may also contact your nearest US Embassy or Consulate for information.

Note: Stay away from the fraudulent websites and services claiming to get you green card through DV lottery. See DV Lottery Websites Fraud Warning on the Department of State website for more information.