Intended to increase the diversity of immigrants settling in the United States, the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) allows over 50,000 randomly chosen individuals to obtain permanent residency, also known as a "green card." The Department of State manages this program (DOS) and typically targets potential immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

The DOS runs a random computer program annually that selects around 50,000 individuals to win the green card lottery. They distribute the visas evenly amongst eligible countries. Each country can receive up to 7% of the available Diversity Visas annually. Most winners live outside the U.S. and must complete the immigration procedures through consulates to obtain their immigrant visas. Few DV Program lottery winners reside in the U.S. at the time of the draw and may apply for an adjustment of status, but this is rare compared to winners living outside the country. 

** Please note that scammers and fraudulent actors often try to take advantage of Diversity Visa    Program applicants. It is essential to verify the destination of any fees or official documents before sending them. 

Eligibility for the Diversity Visa Lottery

To be considered eligible for the Diversity Visa Program, applicants must fulfill two main requirements

Diversity Visa Lottery Nationality Requirement

Eligible applicants must have been born in one of the countries that have sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the United States over the last five years. The list seldom includes countries like China, Mexico, and the United Kingdom because of the large volume of immigrants that enter the U.S. each year from these countries. 

A list of eligible countries is available on the DOS website

Applicants from the following countries were not considered eligible for the Diversity Visa Program in 2023: 

  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China (including Hong Kong SAR)
  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam

There are two exceptions for those who want to apply for the DV program but live in a non-eligible country:

  • If the applicant's spouse was born in an eligible country, they can apply by listing their spouse's birth country.
  • If the applicant's parents are legal residents in an eligible country, the applicant can apply by listing the country of birth of their mother or father.    

Diversity Visa Lottery Educational Requirement

The other main requirement of the Diversity Visa program is that all applicants must have earned at least a high school diploma or have at least two years of work experience within the last five years in a sector that requires at least two years of training or studies. The validity of the applicant's work experience will be determined by the Department of Labor accordingly. 

Applicants residing in the U.S. can adjust their visa status under the Diversity Visa Program by establishing that they have won a visa through the DV Program lottery, have a valid legal status when applying for adjustment of status, and meet all other requirements to become U.S. permanent residents.

Entering the Diversity Visa Lottery 

Applicants wondering how to enter the Diversity Visa Lottery Program can be assured the process is straightforward. Applicants can fill out the entry form on the DOS website during the availability window from early October to early November. 

Applicants should note the following tips while filling out the form:

  • Country of birth refers to the applicant's birth country, not their country of residence.
  • Country of eligibility either refers to the applicant's country of birth or the country where the applicant's spouse or parents were born if their birth country is ineligible. 
  • Applicants must list their spouses, even if they do not reside together or intend to immigrate together. 
  • Applicants must list all biological and adopted children, regardless of age. All step-children under the age of 21 must also be listed from current and former marriages. 
  • A recent photograph of the applicant, their spouse, and their children (if applicable) must be included with the application. This photo should have been taken within the last six months.

All applicants need to save their confirmation number as this is the only way to verify your selection for the Diversity Visa Program. 

Diversity Visa Lottery Processing Time 

After entering into the DV Program, lottery winners will been notified in about seven months. It is important to take action directly after being selected as it can take up to 14 months to complete the green card process, including the interview and submitting the visa application. 

For example, applicants for the 2023 Diversity Visa Lottery Program submitted their forms between October and November 2021. The winners of that draw were announced around May 2022, and the selected applicants will apply for their visas from October 1, 2022 to September 30, 2023. Applicants should start the application process as soon as possible after being selected as lottery winners. 

A Diversity Visa is usually valid for six months from the issuing date. Once winners complete the visa application process and obtain their U.S. visa, they must enter the country on or before the date printed on their official visa.  

Diversity Visa Lottery Fees

One of the benefits of the Diversity Visa Program is that there is no fee to enter the lottery. There are, however, fees for the green card application process to obtain U.S. permanent residency. Winners are required to pay the immigrant visa fee of $330 per person. This fee is non-refundable, regardless of whether a visa is issued.

It is highly advised that applicants complete the DV Program form by themselves and not enlist the help of a "Visa Consultant" or "Visa Agent," as these individuals can be scammers or fraudulent actors. 

Additional fees may be incurred, depending on the applicant's local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It's advised to ask about the specific payment methods, instructions, and fees before completing the application or interview. Other fees may be required for medical examinations or to obtain certified documents from the applicant's local government or record-keeping body. 

Diversity Visa Selection and Next Steps

Winners of the DV Program are selected randomly, and the results are evenly allotted to eligible countries. Applicants can use their confirmation number to check the results starting in early May, one year after submitting their form. 

To check results, applicants will visit the Entrant Status Check page on the Diversity Visa    website. Without a confirmation number, it will be impossible to check the results, so applicants must save this number somewhere safe. 

It should be noted that winning the lottery does not guarantee a green card. The lottery winners are required to complete the same application process as any other aspiring green card holder. Some medical conditions and criminal records could make a winner ineligible for the green card. 

It could take up to one year to be able to move to the United States, so winners should act as soon as possible on their green card application for two reasons: 

  • Applications and visas must be processed and issued before the end of the fiscal year for which the winner applied. 
  • There are usually more winners than available visas, so waiting to start the green card process could result in missing out on obtaining a visa.

Successful applicants will receive a numerical ranking with their winning lottery notification that determines when they can start the green card application process. The first round of visas is typically available on October 1, the first day of the U.S. fiscal year. Applications are accepted up to 90 days ahead of that date. 

Diversity Visa Lottery Applicants outside the United States:    

Most DV Program applicants and winners will apply from outside the U.S. Applicants outside the U.S. should submit a DS-260 form to the National Visa Center as soon as a visa is available. Their application will be sent to the nearest U.S. consulate, and they will be able to schedule an official visa interview. If all requirements are met, the visa may be approved at the interview.  

Diversity Visa Lottery Applicants inside the United States:

For the smaller number of applicants residing inside the U.S. at the time of winning the lottery and possess temporary immigrant status, it is possible to apply for a green card with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Winners will be required to complete and submit Form I-485. They can submit their visa application as soon as a visa becomes available. 

Applicants required to submit Form I-485 might also need submit a list of other required documents, including the following:

  • Two recent passport-sized photos 
  • Copy of the applicant's birth certificate 
  • Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record (Form I-693
  • A copy of the passport page with the applicant's current nonimmigrant visa (if applicable)
  • A copy of the passport page with the applicant's entry or patrole stamp (if applicable)
  • Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94)
  • Any applicable copies of court records (if the applicant was detained at any point)
  • A copy of the applicant's selection letter from the DOS for the Diversity Visa    Lottery Program
  • A copy of the DV Program processing fee receipt 
  • Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (Form I-601, if applicable)
  • Any applicable fees

All applicants will need to schedule an interview after submitting their complete application to the National Visa Center if they are outside the U.S. or the USCIS office if they are inside the U.S. Interviews can be scheduled on the Entrant Status Check website. Additional information may be provided by the applicant's local U.S. Embassy or Consulate or USCIS, so it is essential to read all available information before attending the interview. 

The primary applicant and all family members included in the application are required to schedule a medical appointment with an approved healthcare provider in the country where the applicant will be interviewed. Medical examinations and any required vaccines must be completed before the visa interview date.

Requirements for the Diversity Visa Program Interview

On the scheduled day and time, applicants will conduct an official interview with a consular employee at their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The primary applicant, their spouse, and any applicable children are required to attend. 

While some requirements may vary by country, nearly every Diversity Visa Program applicant will be required to submit the following documentation during their scheduled visa interview:  

  • Two identical recent passport-sized photographs 
  • The appointment confirmation is printed out from the Entrant Status Check website. 
  • A confirmation of the DS-260 form submission can be found online at the Consular Electronic Application Center after submitting the DS-260 form. 
  • A valid passport or approved identity document. This document must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry into the United States for the primary applicant and all associated family members.

Additional required documents may vary depending on the applicant's situation. These documents might include the following:

  • Proof of the qualifying education or work experience 
  • Documents pertaining to deportation (if applicable) 
  • Marriage certificate(s) if immigrating with a spouse or listing a spouse's country on the original application form 
  • Marriage termination documentation
  • Custody documentation if immigrating with children or showing proof of estranged children.

If applicable, all English translations of official documents should be obtained before the scheduled interview date. Applicants may be able to pay any outstanding visa fees during the interview as well.

Diversity Visa Program Decisions

At the end of the official interview, applicants are told whether or not their application is successful. 

For approved visas, applicants will be informed as to when and how their passport, with the U.S. entry visa, will be returned to them. 

For denied visas, applicants will be informed as to the reason for the denial and told whether any additional administrative processing is necessary. 

Successful applicants will receive their passport after some time with the U.S. Diversity Visa    on a page inside. Applicants must inform the U.S. Embassy or Consulate immediately if they find any errors on the visa.  

Applicants will also receive the following documents: 

  • A sealed immigration packet with documents to be presented to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) upon arriving in the U.S. This should not be opened before arrival. 
  • Diversity Visa holders must arrive in the United States before the visa expiration date on their new visa. The timeframe is typically six months.
  • New Diversity Visa holders must pay the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) fee after you receiving their Diversity Visa before traveling to the United States. 
  • Any children traveling with the Diversity Visa holder should have up-to-date vaccination records to enroll in school in the U.S. Applicants must complete their children's vaccinations before arriving in the United States. 

Diversity Visa Lottery FAQs

Who is eligible for the Diversity Visa Lottery Program?

Anyone from an eligible Diversity Visa Program country can enter to win the lottery. If you are not from an eligible country, but you have a spouse who was born in an eligible country, you can apply by listing their birth country instead. This is also true if you have a mother or father born in an eligible country. Eligible Diversity Visa Program countries are those that have sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the last five years.  There are education and work experience requirements that tend to exclude most applicants under the age of 18. Applicants must have at least a high school diploma and two years of work experience in a field that requires at least five years of training. 

How are the Diversity Visas distributed to eligible countries?

The Department of State allocates visas to countries based on a specific formula. The formula ensures that every country can receive up to 7% of the available Diversity Visas each year.

How long is the processing time for a Diversity Visa?

Diversity Visa Program winners are notified within seven months of submitting their application. It can take up to two years to schedule an interview and issue the official visa. 

Can I apply for a Diversity Visa from inside the United States?

Yes, applicants residing in the United States can apply for the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. If selected, they can apply for an adjustment of their temporary or nonimmigrant status.

Final Thoughts On The Diversity Visa Lottery Program

The Diversity Visa Lottery Program provides an opportunity for individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States to obtain a green card.

The program aims to diversify the immigrant population in the U.S. by randomly selecting approximately 50,000 winners each year. Applicants must meet eligibility requirements regarding their country of birth and education or work experience.

The application process is straightforward, but winners must complete the necessary steps to obtain their visas within the given timeframe. While there is no fee to enter the lottery, winners are responsible for paying the required fees for the green card application process.

Applicants should be cautious of fraudulent actors and ensure they are submitting their information through official channels. The Diversity Visa Program offers a unique pathway to U.S. permanent residency for those who may not have other options available to them.

If you have any questions, please follow this link to schedule a consultation with one of our friendly lawyers today.