Not many people are aware of this, but there is an annual visa lottery held by the Department of State formally called the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Sometimes this lottery is also referred to as the Green Card Lottery because “lottery winners” have a direct path to a Permanent Resident Card, i.e., a green card. The Department of State began accepting entries for the federal government’s 2017 fiscal year (“DV-2017”) on October 1, 2015 and will continue to accept entries until November 3, 2015. The current lottery is called the “2017” lottery because entries selected in this lottery must then apply for their visas during the federal government’s 2017 fiscal year, which spans from October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2017. 50,000 diversity visas will be available in the 2017 lottery.
What is the purpose behind the diversity lottery? The lottery is designed to promote immigration from countries that have a recent history of low immigration rates to the United States. Generally, prospective immigrants from countries with more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the previous 5 years are ineligible. A list of excluded countries for the DV-2017 lottery appears on the first page of the Department of State’s DV-2017 instructions and FAQ (.pdf).
Who may apply? One great thing about the diversity visa program is that are only two basic requirements. First, with some notable exceptions, the prospective entrant must be born in an eligible country. A list of eligible countries is contained on pages 16-18 of the DV-2017 instructions linked above. Second, each prospective entrant must satisfy an education/work requirement. Prospective entrants must have the equivalent of a high school education or two years of recent work experience in an occupation that requires two or more years of experience/training to perform. More information on the education/work requirement is contained on page 2 and the FAQ of the DV-2017 instructions linked above, as well as from this page on the Department of State’s website.
How do you apply? Another great thing about the diversity visa program is that the lottery is free to enter. To apply, a qualifying entrant simply completes an Electronic Visa Entry Form (E-DV) at https://www.dvlottery.state.gov/. It is a good idea for prospective entrants to complete the form as early in the registration period as possible due to the potential for heavy web traffic to slow the website during the last week of the registration period. If you plan to apply, please read and follow the instructions carefully. The Department of State has a detailed overview of the entire diversity visa process, as well as a Youtube tutorial video on the application process. Beginning May 3, 2016, you can check whether your entry was selected in the lottery by following the prompts under the section titled “DV Entrant Status Check” at https://www.dvlottery.state.gov/. Good luck everyone!