A guide to the US Green Card lottery

Each year, the U.S. government holds a green card lottery. It’s also known as the Diversity Visa Program and awards 50,000 individuals a green card.

U.S. green cards have another name: permanent resident cards. These documents are issued by the government and give immigrants the right to live, work and study in the U.S.

When the Immigration Act was established in 1996, the goal of the legislation was to increase the diversity of American immigrants. Through the Immigration Act, individuals from all over the world are permitted to enter the U.S. if they follow the correct legal procedures.

How it works

The registration process for the green card lottery usually begins in October and lasts through early November. Names are then selected at random from countries that have low immigration rates to the U.S.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, lottery winners must reside outside of the U.S. and immigrate to the U.S. by visiting the consulate in the country where they live.

In some instances, individuals who win the lottery may reside in the U.S. under a nonimmigrant visa or other legal status, meaning they have permission to live in the U.S.for a reason other than immigration.

There is no cost to enter the Diversity Visa Program lottery, and prospective winners can enter to win by visiting the USA Green Card Lottery website.

Am I eligible to participate?

There is a list of requirements that those who want to enter the lottery must meet.

Individuals must be born in a qualifying country in order to take part in the green card lottery. You may not participate if you were born in one of the following countries:

  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • England
  • Wales
  • Scotland
  • Vietnam

However, those who are from these countries but have a mother, father or spouse from an eligible country can participate in the lottery.

The other requirement is that prospective immigrants must have at least a high school diploma, or have completed 12 years of elementary and secondary school, or have two years of work experience within the last five years in a job that requires at least two years of training.

Get help from Immigration Direct

While it’s possible to apply for the U.S. State Department’s green card lottery on your own, working with a third party service like Immigration Direct can ensure that you’re following all the necessary steps.

Immigration Direct can help you file forms and items such as the I-485, G-324, I-693 (Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record), biographic information, passport-style photos and I-601 (Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility).

Phone and email support is available for those who are applying for the Diversity Visa Program through Immigration Direct.