Lottery for green cards: What it is

You need a green card to live and work permanently in the United States. You can obtain it from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Green cards may be awarded to some people based on their family relationships, employment, or status as refugees or asylum seekers.

Depending on your family or job status, you may have to wait up to 20 years, even if you are eligible. The Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program, also known as the green card lottery, is not guaranteed for you to qualify, but if you are willing to wait while you wait, you can apply.

What Are Your Chances?

In the DV program, 50,000 immigrant visas are distributed annually by random drawing. “Historically, these countries have a low level of immigration to the United States.”

According to the most recent available data, more than 23,2 million people applied for the green card lottery during fiscal year 2021. Upon notification, the first 50,000 people to sign up won the contest that year. Furthermore, some selected applicants will not complete the green-card application process, and some will not begin the process at all. This is why the names of more than 50,000 applicants are drawn.

Timely registration is essential

Every year, online registration for DV starts around mid-October and ends around mid-November. Register as soon as possible after registration opens if you are interested in participating. You may be unable to participate at the end of the signup period if there is heavy website traffic. No late entries will be accepted.

What to do and where to register

Only English is available for registration in the Green Card Lottery. In addition to English, you may also follow the links to the instructions referenced above if you want detailed instructions in a variety of languages. 

If any documents are required, such as a passport number and your photos, please read the instructions carefully. There is also a video tutorial provided by the  Department of State explaining how to register for the lottery.

How do you know if you qualify for a Green Card?

Prior to applying for the green card lottery, you should determine if you are eligible. You must also meet the education requirements regardless of your country of origin.


Diversity visas go to people from countries whose immigration to the United States historically has been low. Diversity visas are issued in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, and the Southern Americas (including South America, Central America, and the Caribbean). According to the instructions for entry into the Diversity Visa program, the list of participating countries changes annually.

In cases where your spouse was born in a country that is eligible for DV, and both of you plan to enter the US simultaneously, you may still be eligible. 

In addition, if you were born in an ineligible country, but neither of your parents were born there or residing there at the time of your birth, you may still qualify if one of your parents was born in an eligible country.

In conclusion

Even if you are not in line to use the green card lottery, you may want to consider applying, since it is free to apply. 

Despite the fact that it’s a lottery, there are strict rules to follow. Be sure to carefully read the rules before applying. There is only one opportunity to apply each year, so don’t let a simple application mistake prevent you from achieving your goals.

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