The Diversity Visa Lottery, Explained

The Diversity Visa Lottery, Explained

What is the Diversity Visa Lottery ?

The Department of State administers the Diversity Immigrant visa program as a means to increase the diversity of immigrants who come to the United States.

The Diversity Visa Program allows each year for more than 50,000 randomly chosen people (only from countries who don’t send a lot of immigrants to the United States) to get permanent residency. The Diversity Visa program is a way to give green cards to individuals and families that would otherwise not be able to immigrate legally to the United States.

Entering the Diversity Visa lottery (aka green card lottery) involves filling out a simple form online, and it doesn’t cost anything. You can enter the lottery every year from early October through early November. The winners are selected at random by a computer, and they and their immediate families receive green cards.

Diversity Visa Cost

There is no fee to enter the green card lottery. However, if you’re selected and choose to apply for a Diversity Visa, you’ll need to pay the mandatory green card application fees . Once selected, you’ll receive information and details of the required fees on the Diversity Visa website at

Diversity Visa Timeline

The winners of the green card lottery are typically notified 7 months after submitting their entry. Once selected, it can take up to 14 months to be scheduled for your interview and receive your visa, depending on how soon you apply for your visa.

If you apply for the green card lottery in 2023 during the registration period, (Oct – Nov 2021), then the results will be announced around May 2022. Only during the fiscal year 2023 (October 1, 2022 to September 30, 2023) would you be able to apply for a visa. You will receive your visa sooner if you apply as soon as possible during fiscal year 2023. This is from Oct. 1, 2022 through Sept. 30, 2023.

You must enter the United States before or on the date of expiration printed on your visa. The Diversity Visa usually has a validity of up to six months.

Diversity Visa Eligibility

There are two main requirements when applying for a Diversity Visa:


To be eligible for a Diversity Visa, one must have been born into a country which has sent fewer than 50,000 immigrants over the last five years. The list of countries eligible for the Diversity Visa changes every year, but Canada is never on it. This is because Canada, China and India are all countries that send large numbers of immigrants to the United States.

The State Department has a complete list of eligible countries.

There are two other ways to qualify for a Diversity Visa if your country of origin is not eligible:

  • You can choose the birth country of your spouse if they were born in a country eligible.
  • You can choose either your mother’s or father’s country of origin if neither your parents are legal residents of the country where you were born.

Second, you need to have a minimum of a high-school diploma or two years’ experience in the last five years, in a career that requires at the very least two years training. This is determined by the U.S. Department of Labor.

How to Enter the Green Card Lottery

Participating in the lottery is relatively easy. You fill out a form on the State Department’s website while it is available, from early October through early November. Most of the questions are easy to understand; however, there are a few places where these extra suggestions may be helpful:

  • List the country where you were born, no matter where you live now. Use the current name of the country if it has changed since you were born.
  • List your birth country or, if you are eligible to do so, your spouse or parents’ birth country. This question does not care where you live.
  • Your spouse: Even if your spouse does not live with you or intends to immigrate along with you, you must still list him/her.
  • No matter their age, you must list your children. List all your stepchildren who are under 21 years old, even if their parents no longer live with you.

Include a recent picture of yourself, your spouse and your children (taken in the last six months). Use the exact same photo requirements for a green-card application.

It’s important to save your confirmation number after you submit your application. This is the only way you can find out if you have been selected.

Selection and Notification

The winners of the Diversity Visa lottery are chosen at random by a computer program, with a certain number of visas allocated to each region of the world and no one country receiving more than 7% of the Diversity Visas available in any given year.

The Diversity Visa website has a link that allows applicants to check their status starting in May of the year after their dv lottery application. It’s important to keep your confirmation number because without it you will not be able see if you have been selected.

You and your family will need to meet the same requirements for a green card as every other U.S. applicant. You may not be eligible for a greencard if you have certain criminal histories. Some medical conditions can make it hard or impossible to obtain a greencard.

What Happens Next?

If you’re selected in the green card lottery, it’s important to act fast, even though it could still be a year or more before you’re able to come to the United States. There are two reasons to act immediately: First of all, your application must be processed and your visa must be issued by the end of the fiscal year for which you were selected. Second, there are more people selected for the Diversity Visa than there are visas available, and if you wait until the last minute there might not be any visas left.

You’ll receive a number rank when you are notified you have won the Diversity Visa. This will let you know when you can submit your application. You can check State Department’s Visa Bulletin towards the end of July to find out when you can submit an application. You can apply up to 90-days in advance. The first visas will be available on October 1st, the first day of U.S. fiscal year.

You can still use the United States if you are not in the United States

Most people selected for a Diversity Visa don’t live in the United States and apply for a Green Card through their local U.S. Consulate. Once you know that a visa is available, submit the form DS260 to the National Visa Center as soon as possible. After your application has been processed, the U.S. Consulate will contact you to schedule an interview. You will receive your immigrant Visa at the interview if you meet the requirements.

You can use this if you are in the United States

You can apply for a Green Card if you are in a temporary status in the United States (technically called “nonimmigrant status”) if you won the Diversity Visa lottery. To do this, you will need to submit Form i-485. According to the Visa Bulletin, you should submit your application immediately after a visa is available.

Avoiding Scams

Unfortunately, the Diversity Visa program is sometimes abused by scammers as a way to defraud hopeful immigrants. Here are a couple of tips to avoid common scams related to the Diversity Visa:

  • The Diversity Visa lottery entry is free. Scammers are those who claim to be collecting fees on behalf of the Department of State.
  • You will not receive a notification from the Department of State by mail or email. The only way to find out if your application has been accepted is to use Enterant Status Check.

The odds of winning the Diversity Visa lottery are not high, but if you get lucky, you can come to the United States without having any family or work contacts. The best option is to apply for a Marriage Green Card if you are married to an American citizen.


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