Diversity Immigrant (DV) Visa Program - Green Card Lottery

Overview

The annual Diversity Visa Lottery also known as the Green Card Lottery is a U.S. government program that makes 50,000 Permanent Resident cards available every year to persons from “underrepresented countries,” which have been less represented in employment and family-based preference categories in the U.S. and who meet two basic eligibility requirements.

The Program makes Permanent Resident Cards available to the winners, authorizing the winners and their families to live, study and work in the U.S. as permanent residents. The Green Card Lottery program is a United States congressionally-mandated program for receiving a U.S. Permanent Resident Card, also popularly known as a U.S.A. Green Card, due to the green color of the Permanent Resident Card.

Since 2003, the applications for the U.S.A. Green Card Lottery have been accepted online only.  This process has been streamlined into a reliable, secure and reliable three step program.

There is a limited period of time during which you can register for the DV Program during each fiscal year and the Department of State publishes detailed instructions for entering the DV Program. These instructions include the dates of the registration period during which you will be able to enter. The law allows only one entry by or for each person during each registration period. The Department of State uses sophisticated technology to detect multiple entries. If you submit more than one entry you will be disqualified.

If a person is unable to qualify for family, refugee or employment visa in the U.S., this is the only option they have to immigrate.  While luck is certainly a key factor in the initial draw, many important factors that affect the applicants’ chances of winning a Permanent Resident Card can be controlled.

Eligibility Requirements

Requirement #1:

Individuals born in countries whose natives qualify may be eligible to enter. If you were not born in an eligible country, there are two other ways you might be able to qualify.

  • Was your spouse born in a country whose natives are eligible? If yes, you can claim your spouse’s country of birth—provided that both you and your spouse are named on the selected entry, are issued diversity visas, and enter the U.S. simultaneously.
  • Were you born in a country whose natives are ineligible, but in which neither of your parents was born or legally resident at the time of your birth? If yes, you may claim the country of birth of one of your parents if it is a country whose natives are eligible for the DV-2016 program.

Requirement #2:

Each applicant must meet the education/work experience requirement of the DV program by having either:

  • A high school education or its equivalent, defined as successful completion of a 12-year course of formal elementary and secondary education;

OR

  • two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience to perform. The U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net Online database will be used to determine qualifying work experience.

Those born in any territory that has sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the previous five years are not eligible to receive a diversity visa.

There are a small number of lottery winners each year who, at the time of “winning the lottery,” are residing in the United States in a nonimmigrant or other legal status. For these winners residing inside the United States, USCIS processes adjustment of status applications.

The following information applies to winners legally residing in the United States only:

Eligibility Criteria

For an applicant to adjust status under the DV Program, you must establish that you:

  • Have been selected for a diversity visa by DOS’s lottery;
  • Have an immigrant visa immediately available at the time of filing an adjustment application (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status); and
  • Are admissible to the United States.

Period of Stay 

Once you enter the U.S. with your Immigrant Visa, you can leave again whenever you want.  You must however remember that an immigrant visa is “to live in the U.S.” As many DV winners have still to put their things in order before relocating permanently to the U.S. (quit job, sell house/car, etc.), the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Boarder Protection understand that, but please don't make the mistake of many others by traveling to the U.S., staying for a couple weeks, returning to your country for 11 months, and coming back for a couple of weeks.  After doing this couple times, you will be asked by the Customs and Boarder Protection to relinquish your green card.

Visa Issuance

If you are selected in the DV-2016 program, you are entitled to apply for visa issuance only during U.S. Government Fiscal Year 2016, which spans from October 1, 2015, through September 30, 2016.  Selectees are encouraged to apply for visas as early as possible, once their lottery rank numbers become eligible for further processing. Without exception, all selected and eligible applicants must obtain their visa or adjust status by the end of the fiscal year.  There is no carry-over of DV benefits into the next year for persons who are selected but who do not obtain visas by September 30, 2016 (the end of the fiscal year).

Also, spouses and children who derive status from a DV-2016 registration can only obtain visas in the DV category between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016.

Family of DV winners

Applicants who win the diversity visa lottery can extend that benefit to their spouses and children (who are under 21 years old and unmarried). These spouses and children are called "derivatives."

In order for a spouse or child to get a diversity visa (an immigrant visa that leads to a U.S. green card), the person must have been listed on the primary applicant’s online State Department application.

Both married partners can, if they are both natives of a qualifying country, submit an entry into the visa lottery. This is strategically important because, if either is selected, the other can get a visa through the winner. It basically doubles your chances of winning.

The U.S. government now recognizes same-sex marriages for immigration purposes. As of DV-2015 (the entry period for which began on October 1, 2013), same-sex married couples can now list each other as spouses on a visa lottery application. The same-sex couple must be considered legally married according to the state or country where the wedding was held.

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