Updated: January 22, 2018
Every year approximately 50,000 people obtain lawful permanent residence (‘green card’ status) in the United States as a result of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Because the successful applicants are chosen by a computerized random selection process the program has become known as the ‘green card lottery.’ The application period for this year’s lottery, the DV2017, opens on October 1, 2015 (at noon, Eastern Daylight Time) and will end on November 3, 2015 (at noon, Eastern Standard Time). Persons whose applications are selected by the lottery and who successfully complete the immigrant visa process must receive permanent resident status no later than September 30, 2017 or they will lose their opportunity.
For DV2015, the latest green card lottery for which statistics are available, 9.4 million entries were received (a total of 14.4 million people, including spouses and children). From that number 125,514 successful applicants were registered. An excess was registered to ensure that all 50,000 slots are used by the deadline of September 30, 2015.)
Eligibility for the Lottery is generally determined by one’s place of birth—that is, the country of which one is a 'native'—rather than by one's country of citizenship or residence. The Department of State has published on its website and elsewhere a list of qualifying countries, natives of which may participate in the Lottery. It is important to remember that persons born in Northern Ireland are eligible to take part, although persons born in the rest of the UK and its dependent territories are not eligible for the DV2017 lottery.
Individuals whose place of birth disqualifies them for participation in the Lottery but who have a spouse who is a native of a qualifying country may themselves be eligible to apply, as long as the spouses are both issued immigrant visas and enter the US simultaneously. In addition, if a person was born in a country whose natives are ineligible, but neither of his or her parents was born there or resided there at the time of the birth, and one of the parents was born in an eligible country, such person may be able to claim nativity in the parent’s country of birth.
After entering the United States on a DV immigrant visa a person is authorised to live and work permanently in the United States. The successful DV applicant may also obtain DV immigrant visas for his or her spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21, as long as they are otherwise eligible for a visa.
Some frequently asked questions:
Am I eligible to take part in the lottery?
- You must be a native of an eligible country, or be eligible to apply through your spouse or a parent (see above).
- hold a high school diploma or the equivalent (defined as the successful completion of a 12-year course of elementary and secondary education) OR
- have two years’ work experience within the last five years in an occupation that requires at least two years’ training or experience to perform. For information about qualifying occupations, click here.
How do I apply?
There is only one method of entering the DV Lottery—online via http://www.dvlottery.state.gov/. This website is open from noon EDT on October 1. Only one application may be submitted per person. The filing of multiple applications will result in a rejection of all applications filed by the individual. The US Department of State does not charge any fee for the DV Lottery and every year issues a warning about unauthorized websites that promise to improve one’s chances in the DV Lottery or otherwise offer ‘assistance’ in connection with the Lottery.
Applicants must keep a record of the confirmation information given to them when they file their application. Without that information they will not be able to check whether their applications have been selected. The Department of State does not provide any way to retrieve the confirmation information once the application has been filed and the computer’s browser closed.
When and how will I know whether I’ve won?
The Department of State no longer notifies successful applicants by post (and it has never notified applicants by e-mail). Applicants should use the Electronic Entrant Status Check website to see whether their applications have been chosen. This information typically becomes available in May or June each year.
What happens after I’ve won?
Successful applicants will be given instructions by the Department of State as to how to complete the rest of the immigrant visa application process, which includes an interview. Background checks and medical examinations are conducted for all immigrant visa applicants, including children, in a vetting process designed to discover any potential ineligibility for a visa. For a general discussion of the more common grounds of ineligibility under the Immigration and Nationality Act see our website articles Washington, We Have a Problem! Ineligibilities and Waivers and A Crime Involving Moral Turpitude! What in the World is That?
We hope that this article has been of interest and assistance, but it cannot possibly cover all permutations of the law and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice tailored to the specifics of your situation. The DV2017 immigrant visa lottery is but one of a number of immigrant and nonimmigrant US visa categories. If you believe that legal advice would be helpful you should consult a qualified US immigration attorney to discuss the visa lottery or any other visa categories that may be available to you.