Your Guide To the Diversity Visa Lottery
An Option for Those Who Do Not Have a Family or Employer to Sponsor Them
The diversity visa lottery gives people a chance to live in the United States who may not have otherwise had the opportunity. Recipients of visas through the lottery help to contribute to the diversity of the United States and the richness of our melting pot culture.
If you’re considering entering the diversity visa lottery, here’s what you need to know as a participant and what to expect if you’re selected.
What Is the Diversity Visa Lottery?
The diversity visa lottery (sometimes called the green card lottery or the DV lottery) exists to increase diversity in the United States. The United States has a significant population of immigrants from many countries, specifically those closest to the United States. Many countries aren’t culturally represented among the United States population in significant numbers.
The United States requires all people requesting an immigrant visa to have a valid reason for moving to the United States, such as qualifying family or employment. People from certain countries tend to make fewer valid requests to immigrate to the United States. This means that a small number of people from some countries will request to come to the United States on an immigrant visa.
The diversity visa lottery is an immigration service that targets these underrepresented populations. People who live in countries with historically low United States immigration rates can enter the diversity visa lottery for a chance to receive an immigrant visa to the United States and become lawful permanent residents.
Which Countries Participate in the Diversity Visa Lottery?
Countries participating in the diversity visa lottery will vary a little bit from year to year. If a country meets its maximum immigration quota in the previous year, it will be removed from the list for the next year.
Countries with smaller populations tend to be eligible every year. Citizens of these countries are eligible to participate in the 2024 visa diversity lottery.
North American Countries
- The Bahamas.
- Myanmar (Formerly Burma).
- North Korea.
- Saudi Arabia.
- Sri Lanka.
- The United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Central Asian and European Countries
- Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- Czech Republic.
- The Netherlands.
- Northern Ireland.
- San Marino.
- Vatican City.
South and Central America
- Costa Rica.
- Antigua and Barbuda.
- Saint Kitts and Nevis.
- Saint Lucia.
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
- Trinidad and Tobago.
Australia and Oceania
- The Marshall Islands.
- The Federated States of Nauru.
- New Zealand.
- Papua New Guinea.
- Samoa Solomon Islands.
Which Countries Cannot Participate in the Diversity Visa Lottery?
If more than 50,000 nationals of a country were awarded visas in the previous year, those countries won’t be able to participate in the current year’s diversity visa lottery. This information can change every year based on the number of visas awarded.
This doesn’t mean that people from these countries are unable to immigrate to the United States. Citizens of non-participating countries are eligible to come to the United States through other application processes, like family-based or employment-based immigrant visa petitions.
These countries cannot participate in the 2024 diversity visa lottery program:
- Hong Kong.
- Dominican Republic.
- El Salvador.
- The Philippines.
- South Korea.
- United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland).
Who Can Participate in the Diversity Visa Lottery?
The diversity visa lottery has some unique requirements for participant eligibility. It’s unlike most other visa programs. In addition to meeting origin requirements, you’ll need to meet work or educational requirements. You’ll also need to remain in solid legal standing within your country of origin and the United States.
The diversity visa lottery is technically only open to people who are citizens of participating countries, but there are some exceptions. If you’re married to someone who is a citizen of a participating country, both of your names are on the entry, and you enter the United States at the same time, you are allowed to claim your spouse’s country of origin.
If you have a parent who was born in an eligible country and is a citizen of an eligible country, you may be able to declare your parent’s home country as your country of birth. There are special requirements for this exception. It’s generally only valid if your parent’s citizenship of an eligible country extends to you as their child, even if you weren’t born in that country.
Work and Education Requirements
The United States wants to reduce the risk of immigrants becoming public charges. A public charge is someone who is unable to support themselves in the United States financially. Since a job offer or enrollment in an educational program isn’t a requirement for the diversity visa lottery program, the United States wants to know that you’ll have career prospects when you arrive.
Participants in the diversity visa lottery program must have a complete high school education or its equivalent. Participants must successfully complete at least primary and secondary education.
If you do not meet the educational requirements, there is an alternative. Immigrants with qualifying work experience do not need to meet the educational requirements. Immigrants with at least two years of work experience in the past five years are eligible if their career requires at least two years of training or experience. Specialty laborers fall into this category.
Good Legal Standing
Although it isn’t specifically mentioned as necessary for eligibility in the diversity visa lottery program, good legal standing is a general rule for all visas. If you’re suspected of or have been convicted of a serious crime, the United States won’t allow you to immigrate unless that crime relates to severe persecution.
If you’ve been in the United States before and you entered without proper documentation, committed a crime, or overstayed your visa, you may be banned from returning to the United States for a specific period of time. You can’t be awarded a visa through the diversity lottery if you’re banned from re-entry.
How Many People Are Selected Through the Diversity Visa Lottery?
The distribution of visas isn’t equal among countries. The allotment of diversity lottery visas is broken down into segments across each country, with each participating country having its own maximum number of participants.
The maximum number of immigrants per country is usually proportional to that country’s population. Some diversity programs specifically target certain countries, like Sri Lanka, that have a consistently low immigration rate.
The total number of lottery winners each fiscal year will be a maximum of 55,000 people out of a large applicant pool. The 2023 Diversity Visa program saw seven million applicants. The program has seen more than 10 million applicants in years past.
How Do You Apply for the Diversity Visa Program?
You can only complete a diversity visa lottery application through the U.S. Department of State. You can complete your application online through the official diversity visa program webpage. The portal will allow you to submit all of the information you need, including photographs and additional supporting documents.
The U.S. Department of State only opens the diversity visa program for applications during a specific registration period each year. They usually accept applications for less than a month at a time.
Entrants can use the same online portal to check the status of their applications and see if they’ve been selected. If lottery winners fail to respond by the deadline, they may be skipped. If enough people fail to respond or are rejected as applicants after being selected, other people may have a chance to be selected through a second chance drawing.
The second chance drawing does not allow new entrants. It revisits the pool of eligible candidates who submitted an application during the original submission period.
What Happens Next If You’re Selected for the Diversity Visa Lottery Program?
Being a lottery winner doesn’t guarantee that you will become a permanent resident of the United States. Winning the visa lottery is not the same as being awarded a green card. It simply means that you’ll have the chance to be seriously considered for an immigrant visa based on your eligibility. Immigration officials will need more information about you, and you’ll undergo further screening upon being selected.
If you’re rejected based on additional screening, you won’t be awarded an immigrant visa. If you’re selected, the United States will issue you an immigrant visa that you can use to travel to the United States within that visa’s validity period. After you arrive, you will be a lawful permanent resident. Your green card should arrive by mail shortly after your arrival.
Disclaimer Regarding Diversity Visa Lottery Scams
There are a lot of scams relating to the diversity visa lottery program that target people around the world who want to immigrate to the United States. The U.S. government is the only governing body in the world that can offer anyone a visa, and all official correspondence relating to the DV program will come from the Department of State.
Correspondence with the United States government will always come from an email address on a “.gov” domain. They will never contact anyone who did not submit an application to the DV program and offer them a visa.
The government generally will not contact you directly to inform you that you’ve been selected for the diversity visa lottery program. They expect you to check your application status through the application page and proceed with the provided instructions if you’ve been chosen. Never submit any information anywhere other than a secure online portal on a domain ending in “.gov” to prevent scammers from obtaining your personal information.
Do You Need Legal Help With Your Visa Application?
The diversity visa lottery can be the only legal path to receiving an immigrant visa for some people who want to move to the United States. It’s nice to be chosen, but the chances of being randomly selected are very slim. You may have a greater chance of receiving a visa by applying through an alternative method if you meet the application criteria for another type of visa.
The thoughtful legal team at Cohen, Tucker + Ades can review your case and provide legal advice regarding the best path forward toward a green card or U.S. citizenship. Contact us for a consultation to discuss the details of your situation. If there’s an alternative visa option (like a NAFTA Professional visa or a family-related green card) that may be a better choice for you, we’ll be able to advise you of your options.