What is the US Green Card Lottery

Each year, the US government holds an incredible global raffle. It is a chance for 55,000 fortunate applicants to secure permanent American residency through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Which is better known as the US Green Card Lottery. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has life-changing potential, but the application process is complex. 

This guide breaks down everything you need to know about the Green Card Lottery. It will give you your best shot at a new life stateside.

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What is the US Green Card Lottery?

The US Green Card Lottery, officially known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, is an annual lottery held by the US government to award green cards. Green cards allow immigrants to permanently live and work legally in the United States.

The State Department runs the lottery each year to increase the diversity among immigrant populations in the US. Most immigrants gain entry through other programs based on family connections or employment. The lottery therefore aims to provide immigration opportunities to underrepresented nations.

The Diversity Visa lottery first opened in 1995. Each year, 55,000 green cards are randomly awarded through the program across six geographic regions. However, winning the lottery does not guarantee receiving a green card. It merely provides the opportunity to apply and be approved for permanent residency. Lottery winners must meet eligibility requirements when applying for their immigrant visa.

Applying for the Green Card lottery is free and open to individuals from qualifying countries specified by US law. Two basic requirements are either a high school education or two years of recent work experience. While winning odds are less than 1%, the opportunity provides life-changing possibilities.

The lottery opens a 30-60 day window each fall for online registration. Winners are randomly selected the following spring through a computer-generated drawing. Notification letters are sent to those selected to begin their visa application process.

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Who is Eligible to Apply?

Eligibility for the green card lottery is based primarily on an applicant’s country of birth. The diversity visa aims to provide immigrant access to nations that have low immigration rates to the United States. Each fiscal year, countries are designated either eligible or ineligible based on immigration levels over the prior five years.

In general, countries with the most legal immigrants to the US over the past five years are excluded from the current year’s lottery. While some changes occur annually, countries like Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines have historically sent enough immigrants to be ineligible. Most European and African countries do qualify.

  • In addition to country of birth requirements, applicants must also meet certain education or work experience qualifications during the past five years:
  • A high school education or its equivalent
  • Or two years of qualifying work experience within the past five years in a profession requiring at least two years of training
  • If eligible based on country of origin and education/work background, applicants also need to meet other standards like having a clean criminal record.

Importantly, submitting an application on the government’s lottery website during the 30-60 day open registration period each fall is free. Winning applicants are only required to pay standard immigration and document fees at later stages in the green card process.

The program’s eligibility criteria aim to promote diversity from underrepresented nations and allow motivated applicants to potentially build a new life in the United States.

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How the Lottery Works

The lottery registration window opens annually from early October to early November, allowing a 30-60 day period for applications. The lottery is only open for applications once per year.

Interested applicants can register free online through the official government website at www.dvlottery.state.gov. The online form prompts applicants to submit basic personal information to confirm eligibility and enter the lottery drawing. Required information includes full name, birth date, country of origin, photo, and contact information.

After the registration period closes each year on November 5th or 6th, a computer randomly selects applicants for further processing. Only 50,000 applicants plus any family they include on their entry forms can be chosen. Submitted online entries have an equal chance of selection no matter when submitted during the application window.

Winning applicants are notified by mail between May and July of the following year. Selected applicants are provided further instructions to formally apply for an immigrant visa, including details on required documents and medical exams that must be completed.

Finally, each lottery winner must still pass State Department interviews and application processing before being granted a green card. Overall odds of eventually obtaining permanent residency through the program are less than 1% since winning the initial lottery does not guarantee final approval of an immigrant visa. However, applicants who complete all processing steps can legitimately achieve the dream of U.S. lawful residence.

Why Apply for the Green Card Lottery?

There are many exciting reasons to apply for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to win the green card lottery:


For millions hoping to build a new life in America, the diversity visa lottery presents a golden opportunity where few other paths may exist. The lottery opens up immigration accessibility for underrepresented nations. Even with low odds, the lucky few winners gain a direct route to work authorization and permanent residency.

Life in America: 

Successful lottery entrants have the chance to embrace all the US has to offer. It includes abundant jobs and business opportunities, high-quality education, global diversity, developed infrastructure and economy, democratic freedoms, and pathways to citizenship. America remains highly attractive for its strong job market alone.

Family Reunification: 

Immigrants who establish lawful permanent residency may also apply for visas allowing family members abroad to join them in America as lawful residents. Winning the green card lottery can open doors for family reunification.

Supporting Loved Ones: 

Once permanent residents start working in America, remittances sent back home to family members can dramatically improve the quality of life for those remaining in their country of origin.

Educational Opportunities: 

Admission to America’s extensive university system helps lottery winners gain access to some of the top higher education globally at both undergraduate and graduate levels.


In summary, while statistically unlikely, winning the US diversity visa lottery presents golden possibilities for life transformation that may not exist through other immigration pathways. The rewards make the application worthwhile, especially given no application fees. It’s the chance of a lifetime!

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