The Diversity Visa Program which is commonly referred to as the Green Card Lottery is a great immigration program that is offered by the U.S. government. Most U.S. immigration programs are based on employment with a U.S. company or family relationships with a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. An employment based immigrant visa is very difficult to obtain and is generally limited to only those with advanced degrees or extraordinary ability in their field. The family-based visas require a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Even if you have a family member who is a U.S. citizen or LPR the wait times for a visa can be in excess of ten years. In contrast the Diversity Visa Program does not require a relationship with a U.S. employer, U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. It is the only equal opportunity immigration program and in that respect it is very American.
What is the Diversity Visa Program or Visa Lottery?
The Diversity Visa program or DV visa lottery is a congressionally mandated immigrant visa program that was designed to diversify the group of people who immigrate to the U.S. each year. In recent years, the U.S. experienced decreasing diversity in it's immigrant population and the majority of persons who were issued immigrant visas came from a very small number of countries. The DV visa program seeks to correct this by making 55,000 immigrant visa available each year to citizens of countries who were underrepresented in previous years' immigrant classes. The DV visa program is called a "lottery" because the recipients of the visas are selected from a random drawing from a pool of all of the qualifying applicants.
Who Qualifies for the Visa Lottery?
In order to apply for the visa lottery you must meet a few basic requirements:
- You must be a citizen of a designated low admission country. The designated low admission countries change each year and are determined by the Department of State preceding the application period for each year's lottery. To see a list of the designated low admission countries please visit the Department of State's DV visa website.
- You must meet the minimum education requirements. To qualify you must either: 1) Have a high school diploma; or 2) Have at least 2 years of work experience (within the 5 years immediately preceding your application) in an occupation that requires 2 years of training or experience.
How do you apply for the Visa Lottery?
Each year the Department of State publishes instructions for how to apply for the current year's visa lottery. The application must be submitted electronically through the Department of State's DV Visa website. You may submit the application on your own or seek the assistance of a DV visa application service. These services charge a small fee for preparing the DV visa application for the applicant and submitting it to the Department of State. Since application which are improperly submitted are disqualified it might make sense to use a service like this to be sure your application is properly submitted.
When can I apply for the visa lottery?
The application period for the visa lottery changes each year but it usually starts the first week in October and concludes the first week of November. You should check the DV visa webpage in the summer to find out when the application period will begin for the current year. Since the application period is very short it is important that you stay informed about this each year so you do not miss the application period. This is another good reason to consider using a application service. Many of the professional application services offer a multi-year service where they submit the application for you each year during the application period so you don't have to worry about it.