Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery
Section 203(c) of the Immigration Act of 1990 makes available up to 50,000 lawful permanent resident (LPR or immigrant, or “green card”) visas each year by random selection through a Diversity Visa Lottery.
The lottery is open only during certain times of the year. To learn if the lottery is currently open or to get the entry form, please review the Department of State's DV Entrant Status Check webpage.
Note: The entry form link is only active during the registration period. It will not open before or after the registration period.
If you click the link too early or too late in the year, you may get a message that the lottery is “over,” meaning that it is over for the immediately preceding year and has not begun for the upcoming year.
This FAQ will address some of the major questions, but you need to read and follow the official instructions on the Department of State web site (see link above).
Frequently Asked Questions
The official title of the status is Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) or Resident Alien. It is called a "green card" because in earlier years the document that provided evidence of that status was a small, green card. The card itself is now very high tech with embedded images, holographs, and more. LPR status allows you to remain in the US indefinitely, to live where you choose, and to work at any job (except a few government jobs reserved for citizens). LPR status is not citizenship, but after being in LPR status for five years you may apply for US citizenship if you choose.
This is a true lottery. It is not merit based. You just enter, and if your application is picked by a computer-generated random number, then you may apply for LPR status in the U.S. You do not need a family sponsor or an employer sponsor.
Some countries are eligible; some are not. This is a diversity lottery. It is meant to give LPR chances to those from countries that do not usually send many immigrants to the U.S. Note whether your country is eligible. Countries that usually send many immigrants to the U.S, such as Canada, China, India, Mexico, the UK, and so on are not eligible.
No, eligibility is based on your native country, your country of birth, and not your countries of citizenship. For example, if you were born in Canada, but you have acquired citizenship in Peru, you are not eligible for the lottery, even though someone born in Peru would be. Your ineligibility is based on birth in Canada. There are some exceptions for birth during diplomatic postings or "cross charging" to your spouse's country, so read the eligibility rules carefully.
You may file only ONE application. If you file more than one, all of your applications are disqualified. So be sure none of your well-meaning relatives or friends file for you. The point of the multiple disqualifications is to ensure that each person has one equal chance to win, and that no one can "stuff" the application box with hundreds or thousands of applications. Note, however, that if you are married, each of you may file for yourself and list the spouse as a family member. That means that you get one chance as the "principal" applicant, and another chance as the "derivative" spouse.
Use an address that is reliable for at least a year (preferably longer) into the future. If DOS notifies you that you have won, you want to be sure to get that notice. If necessary use the address of a friend or relative who is settled in a place and on whom you can rely to notify you immediately if the notice comes in.
Do not use any of them! No one can increase your chances of winning the lottery, so be wary of any person or organization that promises increased success, especially for a fee. They are just trying to take your money. This is a lottery, a gamble, and it is based on computer-generated random selection. No one can improve your chances by the way the application is submitted, or the timing, or whatever. And there is no fee.
If you win, do three things:
- Contact an immigration attorney immediately to ensure that you do all that you can as quickly as possible to provide the stacks of information needed for the LPR issuance. The LPR application requires a lot of documentation - health certificates, birth certificates, and much more.
- Respond immediately! Just like the airlines, DOS "overbooks" and selects more people than they have spaces, because they know that some people who win will not follow through to LPR status. You want to be sure that you get one of the available spaces. Talk with your immigration lawyer about the best way to respond.
- Get a job offer. You must have a job offer to complete the process. Do not panic if you are a student with no job. Any job will do; it does not have to be your dream job in your chosen field. A job offer in a fast food restaurant or a shopping mall store is fine. The government needs to know that you have some way of supporting yourself in the U.S. Do not confuse a job offer with actual employment in a job. You do not have to be employed at the time that you file. Indeed, you may not be lawfully permitted to work until after you have LPR status. Talk with your immigration lawyer about the job offer vs. employment issue.
It also is important to remember that entering the DV Lottery is not considered the same as applying for Lawful Permanent Residence. However, if you win and you go through the application process (see Q8 above), then your answer to this question would usually be, "yes." If you win, be sure to talk with your attorney before you fill out a visa application or travel abroad.
The DOS web site is the official source of information on the lottery. The Visa Services cannot give you any additional information. If you wish to talk with an attorney about entering the lottery, you have the right to do so, but remember that the attorney must follow the same lottery rules that appear on the DOS web site. Many reputable attorneys are providing information free on their web sites, because they know that there is minimal help that they can provide at the lottery application stage.
Remember, if you win, we strongly recommend that you contact an attorney immediately to be sure you get all of the required documents properly submitted within the specified time period.