The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as the Green Card Lottery, is a United States government immigration program for receiving a United States Permanent Resident Card (i.e., Green Card).
The Immigration Act of 1990 established the current and permanent Diversity Visa (DV) Program.
Around 10 million people from around the world participate in the Diversity Visa Lottery each year and about 100,000 are randomly selected for the opportunity to receive one of the 55,000 Diversity Immigrant Visas and Permanent Resident Green Cards that are issued through this US immigration program annually.
This guide will provide the essential information about the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, including the timeline, eligibility requirements, how to participate, selection process, benefits – and more!
Table of Contents
What Is the Diversity Visa Lottery?
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (also known as the Green Card Lottery) is a US immigration program that was established by the American Congress through the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1990.
A key goal of the Diversity Visa Lottery (DV-Lottery) Program is to further diversify the population of the United States by granting up to 55,000 Diversity Immigrant Visas and US Permanent Resident Green Cards each year to people who were randomly selected in the DV-Lottery and who:
- were born in an eligible country with a historically low level of US immigration; and
- satisfy the education or work experience requirement.
Around 10 million people from around the world participate in the Diversity Visa Lottery each year; about 100,000 participants are randomly selected by lottery as winners; and up to 55,000 “selectees” and their family members who complete the consular process successfully will receive a Diversity Immigrant Visa on a page of their passport and be granted a United States Permanent Resident Green Card.
The Diversity Immigrant Visa is used by a new US permanent resident to initially enter the United States and it is issued by the American Embassy or Consulate in their country of residence following a successful consular process.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues the Green Card, which is a plastic identification card that an immigrant carries as proof of authorization to live, study and work in the USA for an unlimited amount of time as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR).
A US Permanent Resident Green Card holder can enjoy many benefits, including:
- Living in the USA in any of the 50 states for an unlimited amount of time
- Working in the US legally (there are millions of available jobs in the USA)
- Gaining access to quality education programs in the United States
- Permission to apply for federal financial aid to help pay for US education programs
- Sponsoring eligible family members for US permanent residency
- Receiving the opportunity to buy a home and start a business in the USA
- Experiencing equality and many freedoms that are protected by law
- Enjoying outdoor scenery such as beautiful beaches, forests, lakes, etc.
- Having a wide variety of consumer products and services to choose from
- The option to apply for American citizenship after living in the US for 5 years
Diversity Visa Costs
There is no cost to register for the Diversity Visa Lottery; however, winners who are randomly selected in the DV-Lottery and each family member listed in the DV-Lottery Application and Form DS-260 will need to pay the non-refundable Diversity Visa Fee of $330 USD (2023) at the American Embassy or Consulate on the day of the consular interview.
Please note that USAFIS charges a fee for its application review and submission service, to make sure a customer’s application and photo(s) are completed correctly before being submitted to the Diversity Visa Lottery on their behalf during the annual registration period.
You will also need to pay for the required medical exam(s) which you and each family member must have as one of the last steps before the consular interview.
If you are approved for US immigration and receive a Diversity Visa, you will need to pay a separate online USCIS Immigrant Fee of $220 USD (2023) for yourself and each accompanying family member so you can receive your United States Permanent Resident Green Card(s) which will be mailed to the address in the US that you provided.
Diversity Visa Timeline:
- Registration for the Diversity Visa Lottery usually occurs in October
- The Diversity Visa Lottery takes place early the following year
- Notification of DV-Lottery winners (selectees) begins in early May
- DV-Lottery selectees submit the Form DS-260 to the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC)
- Eligible DV-Lottery selectees receive consular interview details from the KCC
- The DV-Lottery selectee and his or her family will have a medical exam
- Each family member must obtain two identical color photos before the interview
- The family will go to the US Embassy or Consulate for the scheduled interview
- The DV-Lottery selectee will bring the required documents to the interview
- Before the consular interview begins, the Diversity Visa Fee(s) must be paid
- The DV-Lottery selectee and his or her family will attend the consular interview
- If approved, a Diversity Immigrant Visa will be placed in the passport(s)
- The USCIS Immigrant Fee must be paid online to receive the Green Card(s)
- Immigrants must enter the US before the Diversity Immigrant Visa expires
- US permanent residents will carry their Green Card as proof of LPR status
Diversity Visa Eligibility:
- The DV-Lottery applicant must have been born in an eligible country.
- Eligible and ineligible countries are listed online by the US State Department each September.
The DV-Lottery applicant must also:
- Have successfully completed 12 years of primary and secondary education; OR
- Have 2 years of work experience during the previous 5 years in a qualifying occupation requiring a minimum or 2 years of experience or training to perform.
- The application and photo(s) must be submitted correctly to the Diversity Visa Lottery.
- An applicant who participates in the DV Lottery must be selected as a winner in order to continue the process.
- DV-Lottery winners need to file the Form DS-260 with the US State Department’s Kentucky Consular Center (KCC).
- The KCC with review the DV-Lottery winner’s Form DS-260 to confirm eligibility for the DV-Program.
- After the eligibility of a DV-Lottery winner is confirmed, the KCC will schedule the consular interview.
- The DV-Lottery winner and his/her family must pass the medical exam, security check and consular interview.
- The Diversity Visa Fee must be paid for the DV-Lottery winner and each of his or her family members.
- If approved for US permanent residency, a Diversity Immigrant Visa will be placed on the passport(s) page.
- The new immigrant(s) must enter the United States before their Diversity Immigrant Visa expires.
How to Enter the Green Card Lottery
If you satisfy the two Diversity Visa eligibility requirements (i.e., you were born in an eligible country, and you meet the education or work experience criteria), then you can file your DV-Lottery application by yourself for free on the US State Department’s E-DV website during the annual registration period.
The official registration period for the Diversity Visa Lottery usually starts in early October and ends in early November (the exact dates are announced by the US State Department each September).
The main applicant must fill in the online DV-Lottery application accurately using the English language with all of the required information about himself/herself and each family member and upload a color photo according to the DV-Lottery regulations for each person in the application, all within the limited time allowed.
If this sounds rather complicated, don’t worry because USAFIS has created the perfect solution!
For over 20 years, USAFIS has been offering its review and submission services to its customers that:
- make it easy for USAFIS customers to prepare their DV-Lottery application and photo(s) in advance
- instruct customers how to complete their application and photo(s) according to the DV-Lottery standards
- review each customer’s application and photo(s) prior to submission to make sure they were done correctly
- inform customers if a photo does not meet the DV-Lottery standards and how to provide a new photo
- remind USAFIS customers prior to DV-Lottery submission to make sure their details and photos are up-to-date
- submit a USAFIS customer’s application and photo(s) to the DV-Lottery during the annual registration period
- make available customer service and information about the Diversity Visa Lottery Program in several languages
- contact USAFIS customers promptly when they are selected as winners of the DV-Lottery
- guide USAFIS customers who were selected as DV-Lottery winners in preparing for the consular process
Selection and Notification
Approximately 100,000 winners are randomly selected by computer from around 10 million DV-Lottery participants from eligible countries in six regions of the world for the opportunity to receive one of the 55,000 Diversity Immigrant Visas and Green Cards authorized to be issued through this US immigration program each year.
The results of the Diversity Visa Lottery are made available to the participants on the US State Department’s E-DV website starting in early May by entering their Confirmation Number, last/family name as written on the DV-Lottery application, four-digit year of birth and the authentication characters as shown at the bottom of the E-DV webpage, and then clicking on the blue ‘Submit’ button.
Suppose you were randomly selected as a winner of the Diversity Visa Lottery. In that case, you will see an online Selection Notification Letter with the US State Department’s official seal, a bar code, a long Case Number that has 14 characters starting with the four-digit DV-Year, and a message that says that “you have been selected for further processing”.
You must print this Selection Notification Letter, keep it in a safe place and write down the Case Number, because you will need this letter and the Case Number during the consular process.
Diversity Visa Lottery winners must file Form DS-260 online with the US State Department’s Kentucky Consular Center (KCC), which will review your information and confirm if you meet the eligibility requirements for the DV-Lottery Program and; if you do, will schedule a consular interview at the American Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence.
At the consular interview, you and your family will meet with a consular official who will review your documents, ask you some questions and decide if you qualify to receive one of the 55,000 Diversity Immigrant Visas in your passport(s).
In the event that you were not chosen as a winner of the DV-Lottery, you will see a message in your E-DV website Status Check that basically says “you have not been selected for further processing”.
Remember that most people who participate in the Diversity Visa Lottery are not selected the first time and may need to apply for the DV-Lottery for several years before being randomly selected by computer.
Please note that the US State Department will not contact you by phone, email, or mail to inform you that you were or were not selected for the DV-Lottery and that you must check for yourself on the US State Department’s E-DV website via the Status Check procedure when the results are made available starting in early May.
One of the benefits that USAFIS provides to its thousands of customers is to promptly contact them by phone and/or email to inform them when they are selected as winners of the Diversity Visa Lottery, so they can take the next step in the US immigration process as soon as possible, which involves filing the Form DS-260 with the KCC.
USAFIS is proud that tens of thousands of our customers from around the world have been selected as winners of the Diversity Visa Lottery during the past two decades and given the opportunity to live the American Dream!
The Diversity Visa Lottery Program is a unique and popular US immigration program because:
- The eligibility requirements are relatively easy compared with other US immigration programs.
- Sponsorship is not required to apply for US immigration through the Diversity Visa Program.
- A lottery system is used to randomly select who can apply for a Diversity Immigrant Visa.
- There is no English language requirement to immigrate to the US through the DV-Program.
- Winners selected in the DV-Lottery can apply for one of the 55,000 Diversity Immigrant Visas.
- DV-Lottery selectees who pass the consular interview can get a Permanent Resident Green Card.
- US Permanent Residents who live in the USA for 5 years can apply for American citizenship.
Although the eligibility requirements to apply for the Diversity Visa Lottery (sometimes called the US Green Card Lottery) are rather simple, many people who want to participate in the annual DV-Lottery fail to do so or get disqualified if selected because:
- They do not understand English well enough to complete their US Green Card Lottery application correctly.
- They do not upload photos for each person in their US Green Card Lottery application that meet the criteria.
- They cannot provide all of the details and photos for their US Green Card application within the time limit.
- They complete their US Green Card Lottery application incorrectly, get selected, but are later disqualified.
Over 20 years ago, USAFIS was established to provide a review and submission service to make it easier for individuals and families from around the world who speak a variety of languages to correctly prepare and submit their US Green Card Lottery applications during the annual registration period.
USAFIS offers information about the US Green Card Lottery as well as customer service in several languages, including English, Spanish, Arabic, French, Turkish, and Russian.
In addition to the review and submission service for the US Green Card Lottery, USAFIS makes available other services that can help new immigrants to have a smooth relocation to the United States.
To learn more about USAFIS services, click here!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long does it take to get a Diversity Visa?
In general, a person usually has to participate in the Diversity Visa Lottery (also called the US Green Card Lottery) multiple years before being randomly selected for the opportunity to receive one of the 55,000 Diversity Immigrant Visas and Green Cards available through this US immigration program each year. If you learn in early May when the DV-Lottery results are released that you were selected, you could receive a Diversity Immigrant Visa about 6-14 months later if you pass the subsequent consular process successfully.
Why was the Diversity Visa Lottery established?
The US Congress established the Diversity Visa Lottery Program in 1990 for the purpose of further diversifying the population of the United States. This is why one of the two requirements to participate in the DV-Lottery is to be born in an “eligible” country with a traditionally low US immigration level. Before the Diversity Visa Lottery was created, most people approved for US immigration originated from countries in Europe. Since the DV-Lottery was launched, the largest number of people immigrating to the United States were born in countries located in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Who cannot apply for the DV Lottery?
People who do not satisfy the eligibility requirements regarding birth country and education or work experience cannot apply for the DV Lottery. Thus, if someone was not born in an “eligible” country and they do not meet the education or work experience requirement, they cannot apply for the DV Lottery (with the following exceptions). In the event that an individual meets the education or work experience requirement, but was not born in an eligible country, it may still be possible to apply for the DV Lottery if one or both of his/her parents was born in an eligible country or his/her spouse was born in an eligible country, in which case the applicant could claim the parent’s or spouse’s eligible birth country (the spouse would need to be listed on the DV-Lottery application).
How can I increase my chances of winning the DV Lottery?
There are a couple ways to increase your chances of being selected as a winner of the DV Lottery. First and foremost, you must file your DV Lottery application correctly during the annual registration period which usually occurs between the first week of October and the first week of November (i.e., you can’t be selected if you don’t participate). If you and your spouse both meet the two eligibility requirements for the Diversity Visa Lottery, you can file a DV-Lottery application and include your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age; plus your spouse can also file a separate DV-Lottery application and include you and your unmarried children under 21 years of age. This could double your family’s chances of winning the DV Lottery. If either you or your spouse are randomly selected as winners in the DV Lottery, both spouses and your unmarried children under 21 years of age who were listed on the winning DV Lottery application can all have the opportunity to receive a Diversity Immigrant Visa and US Green Card!
How do they select DV Lottery winners?
DV Lottery “winners” are randomly selected by computer from eligible countries with low levels of US immigration in six regions of the world. Participants of the Diversity Visa Lottery can check if they were selected for further processing to receive a Diversity Immigrant Visa starting in early May when the results are made available on the US State Department’s E-DV website.
What happens if you are selected for the DV Lottery?
If you are selected as a winner in the Diversity Visa Lottery, you can continue the process to receive one of the 55,000 Diversity Immigrant Visas and US Permanent Resident Green Cards to live, study and work in the United States for an unlimited period of time. You will need to file the Form DS-260 online with the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC), which will check your eligibility and schedule the consular interview at the American Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence if you qualify. You and your family will need to have a medical exam and get two identical color photos before the consular interview. You will pay the Diversity Visa Fee(s) for yourself and each family member at the American Embassy or Consulate on the day of the consular interview. During the consular interview, the US State Department official will meet with you and your family, review the documents that you brought with you and ask some questions. If you are approved for US immigration, a Diversity Immigrant Visa will be placed on a page of the passport(s) and you will need to enter the United States before the Diversity Immigrant Visa expiration date. Once you have your Diversity Immigrant Visa(s), you can pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee online so your Green Card(s) can be sent to the address in the USA that you provided.
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