News & Insights

What is the Diversity Visa Lottery?

By Kate McCarroll
November 2, 2017

Established in 1990, the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery program allocates 50,000 immigrant visas (green cards) each year to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. For example, citizens from most African and European countries are eligible – those from India, Mexico, Canada, and other high-volume U.S. immigration countries are not. Applicants to the DV Lottery must meet minimum education or work experience requirements to be eligible for the program. Entries are submitted online, and winners are randomly chosen. The odds of selection are extremely low – in 2015, nearly 14.5 million applications were received for the 50,000 available green cards. Notably, the United States issues approximately 1 million green cards each year – of which the DV Lottery program makes up just a small fraction.

If selected, the applicant and his/her spouse and minor children undergo fingerprint, name, and photo checks (which include facial recognition and other technologies) against multiple international databases to ensure that they are not on terrorist, organized crime, gang, or other watch lists. In addition, DV Lottery winners attend an in-person interview with the Department of State prior to issuance of the immigrant visa. Past criminal convictions, security concerns, health-related issues and prior U.S. immigration violations are grounds to deny issuance of a green card.

Because the foundation of the U.S. immigration system is built on family and employer-sponsorship, the DV Lottery program is the only means for some individuals to relocate to the United States. Entries for the Fiscal Year 2019 Lottery are being accepted until November 22, 2017 here

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