Explainer: The Diversity Visa Lottery

Living, working, and going to school in the United States is a dream for many people around the world. America is a nation of immigrants and the descendants of immigrants.

However, for various reasons related to security and the economy, there are strict rules on who can live and work in the U.S.

There are several programs that offer foreign individuals the ability to temporarily come to the U.S. Most of these programs require a significant contribution in skills or job creation for the foreign individual, and even then, most of them will still require the individual to return to their home country, just missing the ultimate prize of a green card.

There are other programs, however, that give immigrants a pathway to a green card. One such program is the Diversity Visa Lottery.

What is the Diversity Visa Lottery?

The official U.S. Government Diversity Visa Lottery Immigration and Naturalization Program uses the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery as a way to provide non-citizens an opportunity to love, work, and study in the U.S. Those selected by the Lottery may also bring their family to the U.S. and eventually apply to become a U.S. citizen.

This Congressionally-mandated program is administered every year through the Department of State (DOS), which conducts a lottery that chooses immigrants who qualify as “diversity immigrants.”

Each year there are 55,000 Diversity Visas made available to people who are from countries where U.S. immigration rates are relatively low.

Applicants must also meet other requirements, including those related to education and work experience, which will be verified before anyone is issued a visa.

What is the goal of the Diversity Visa Lottery?

The ultimate goal of the Diversity Visa Lottery is for those chosen to receive a green card. A green card grants an individual from another country permanent legal residency.

With the exception of voting, those with a green card can take advantage of the same rights and privileges that are available to most Americans.

These privileges also include receiving financial aid for college, working at a qualified job, sponsoring their spouses and minor children to live in the U.S., the ability to start a business, and eventually the ability to become a citizen of the U.S. without giving up citizenship to their home country.

How are the winners chosen?

Like most lotteries, the winners that meet the proper qualifications are chosen at random by a computer. The winners are distributed among six different geographic regions, with no one country allowed to receive more than 7% of the lottery “winnings.”

Countries that typically have lower rates of immigrants have priority over those countries which are granted visas and citizenship on a more regular basis.

Any country that has had more than 50,000 immigrants over the previous 5-year period is not eligible for the lottery. For DV-2021, the countries who are ineligible to apply are:

>China (mainland-born)
>Dominican Republic
>El Salvador
>South Korea
>United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories

When is the Diversity Visa Lottery filing period?

For DV-2021, the filing period begins October 2nd, 2019 and ends on November 5th, 2019. Applicants from a qualifying country will be able to apply for lottery consideration during that time.

Where can you learn more about the Diversity Visa Lottery?

For more information on this program, visit the following web pages.

>Department of State page on the Diversity Visa Lottery
>Department of State instructions for DV-2021

Note: This post was originally posted 9/4/15. It has been updated as of 10/8/19.

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Disclaimer: Nothing in relation to the enclosed information should be construed and or considered as legal advice for any individual, entity, case, or situation. The following information is prepared for advertisement use only. The information is intended ONLY to be general and should not be relied upon for any specific situation. For legal advice on your specific situation, we encourage you to consult an attorney experienced in the area of Immigration Law.