Green Card Lottery: Should I Enter?

Green Card Lottery: Should I Enter?

Most people understand how the regular lottery works: you enter a drawing and if you are selected at random, you win a prize. Lotteries allow some lucky winners to win prizes such as cars, holidays and cash prizes. The US government also offers a US Green Card Lottery Program, which allows people to win permanent legal residency in the US. The Golden Ticket.

This sounds great! What are my chances of winning?

There is a whopping 50,000 immigrant visas issued annually, based on the results of a random drawing. The visas are apportioned among countries with “historically low rates of immigration to the U.S.”

Who’s Eligible?

Before registering for the green card lottery, you should determine if you are eligible. You must meet either a training requirement or an education requirement. If you have two years of training or work experience or a high school education you may meet this requirement in most fields of work.

Diversity visas go to natives of selected countries in six geographic regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania plus South America, Central America and the Caribbean. If you were not born in an eligible country, you may still qualify for the DV program if your spouse was born in an eligible country, both of you are named on the same entry and both of you intend to enter the U.S. at the same time. Also, if you were born in an ineligible country – but neither of your parents was born in or legal residents of that country at the time of your birth – you may still qualify, assuming one of your parents was born in an eligible country.

Sounds like I qualify. How can I register?

The online registration period for the DV Program typically runs between Oct. 1 and Nov. 3 each year. You should register as early as possible once it opens. If you wait until the end of the sign-up period, you could miss out due to heavy website traffic. Late entries will not be accepted.

Do I have to pay for this?

There are plenty of scammers out there ready to take your money in exchange for useless or even harmful information. You may run across private websites (many of them look legitimate) that offer everything from tips on winning the green card lottery to secrets to help you “game the system.” Some even offer to help you apply – all for a fee, of course. You may also receive fraudulent emails, letters and other types of communication that try to convince you that you have been selected as a lottery winner. Do not fall for this! The Diversity Lottery is FREE and should only be applied for here online. In fact, no paper or post office applications are accepted. To apply, you must complete an online form. If you have dependants (such as children or a spouse) who will travel with you to the US in the event that you are awarded a green card, you must also fill out a supplemental form. In addition, you must attach two digitized photos of yourself.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Entering the green card lottery is free.
  • The drawing is random and by computer.
  • You can only find whether you have won by going to (typically beginning May 1).
  • If you win and are permitted to apply, you will have to pay a fee, but that will be in person at a U.S. embassy or consulate.


I won! What happens next?

Winning the green card lottery does not result in your automatically getting a green card in the mail (if only it were that simple!). If you are lucky enough to win, all it means is that you may have won the opportunity to apply for a green card. You can find out if you are a lottery winner on or after May 3 by going to the DV Entrant Status Check link online. If you have won, you will be directed from there to a confirmation page with further instructions.

Waiting List – As roughly 125,000 names are drawn, with only 50,000 eligible to actually receive a green card, everyone whose name is drawn is put on a waiting list and given a number. If your waiting list number is high, and 50,000 people ahead of you successfully complete their paperwork, you won’t get a chance to apply – let alone receive a green card.

Currently Living in the U.S. – If you currently live in the U.S. under a non-immigrant or other type of legal status, the process you will follow – should you win the lottery and be allowed to apply for a green card – is outlined here.

Currently Living Outside the U.S. – The vast majority of green card lottery winners live outside the United States and follow a process called consular processing.

The Bottom Line

Because applying for the green card lottery is free, even if you are “in line” waiting for your green card through another avenue, you may want to consider applying for the lottery, just in case. Even though it’s a lottery it follows strict rules, which are outlined in the instructions. Read them carefully before applying. You can only apply once per year, so you don’t want to be disqualified from achieving your dream due to a simple application error. If you don’t win, and you still want to live in the US, consider applying for an E3 Visa by following our steps here.

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