What is the Green Card Lottery?

LotteryEven though she became a citizen of the United States in 2012, Russian-born Katherine Alexandra thought her dream to sing the national anthem in performance wasn’t a realistic possibility.  As the 2014 minor league baseball season was winding down, however, the classically-trained musician found herself hitting the notes before a Charlotte Stone Crabs game in Florida. This lucky opportunity to sing harmonized with Alexandra’s luck at winning the green card lottery.

The green card lottery, an immigration program that’s formally called the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program, extends visa opportunities in countries that are underrepresented in the immigrant population.  The U.S. Department of State (DOS) implements the green card lottery with 50,000 visas annually. The visa allotment is distributed among six geographic regions and each country receives no more than 7 percent of the available DVs in any single year.

Applicants must have a high school education or its equivalent or two years of qualifying work experience.  The education requirement is comparable to the 12-year basic education system in the United States. The work qualification requires experience in a field identified by the Department of Labor during two of the last five years.

Foreign nationals who win the green card lottery usually apply through a U.S. consulate office. It’s extremely rare that a green card lottery winner resides in the United States. The primary reason for this is that DOS doesn’t issue DVs to foreign nationals who have applied for immigrant status in some other form.

Primary applicants of the green card lottery are required to meet the education or work requirements, but the requirements don’t extend to immediate family members. By the same token, applicants must be sure to include all immediate family members in the initial application. Although new family members—a new spouse or a new child–  can be added to a green card lottery application, the omission of these family members during the initial application results in a visa denial.  While applicants can be disqualified, any fees paid during the application process are nonrefundable.