US visa lottery FAQs
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is a lottery-style draw administered by the Department of State, where natives of countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States are randomly selected for a diversity visa.
There are a limited number of diversity visas distributed in any one fiscal year. For the DV-2020 US Visa Lottery there will be 50,000 such visas made available to natives from a number of different foreign regions, where 2020 refers to the year where successful entrants can enter the United States.
What are your chances in the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program?
As a non-US national it is possible to obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States by entering the US Visa Lottery. While in no way guaranteed, the following guide tells you how to go about obtaining a lottery-style green card, courtesy of what’s officially known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.
Who is eligible to apply for the US visa lottery?
Enrolment into the US visa lottery is open to all individuals worldwide who meet the following two entry requirements:
- You must be a native of a qualifying country
- You must meet an education or work experience requirement.
Native of a qualifying country
Under US immigration law, the list of eligible countries are limited to those from which fewer than 50,000 natives in various visa categories immigrated to the United States during the previous five years.
The list of eligible countries for each year’s US visa lottery is modified on the sole basis of this five year calculation, where people born in countries with high immigration rates are excluded from the program.
For the US Visa Lottery DV- 2020 more than 50,000 natives of the following countries immigrated to the United States in the previous five years and, as such, are ineligible:
Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, the UK (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.
A ‘native’ means someone born in a particular country, regardless of the individual’s current nationality or country of residence. Accordingly, eligibility is determined by the country of your birth, and not based on your country of citizenship or where you currently reside.
In the event that you were born in one of the non-qualifying countries, you may in limited circumstances still be able to participate in the US Visa Lottery based on the country of birth of your parents or spouse.
Education or work experience requirement
Each US Visa Lottery entrant must also meet the education or work experience requirement by having either:
- Completed at least a US high school education or its foreign equivalent, defined as the successful completion of a twelve year course of formal elementary and secondary education, or
- Obtained two years work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience. The US Department of Labor’s O*NET Online database will be used to determine qualifying work experience.
There is no minimum age to apply for the US Visa Lottery, although the requirement of a high school education or work experience will effectively disqualify most persons who are under the age of 18.
How do I apply for the US visa lottery?
To enter the US visa lottery you must do so via the Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery website (www.dvlottery.state.gov). The law allows only one entry per person during the registration period, where individuals who submit more than one entry will be disqualified.
To complete your US Visa Lottery entry you must provide your personal and contact details. You must also list any eligible spouse and children under 21, unless they are already a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, regardless of whether they are living with you or intend to immigrate alongside you.
Failure to list any eligible spouse or children, or listing someone who is not in fact your spouse or child, is grounds for disqualification. Although the US Visa Lottery is limited to one entry per person, each spouse may submit their own entry if each meets the eligibility requirements. If either spouse is selected, the other is entitled to apply as a dependant.
All entrants must enrol with a recent visa-compliant photo, taken within the last six months, as well as a photograph of any eligible spouse and children. Submitting the same photograph that was submitted with a prior year’s entry will result in disqualification from the US visa lottery.
Having registered, you must print and retain your confirmation page so that you will be able to check your entry status online. It is crucial that you retain a record of your unique confirmation number, as this is the only way to check whether your entry has been selected. You will not otherwise be notified.
Successful entrants will be directed to a confirmation page providing instructions on how to apply for a visa, including information about fees connected with that application.
What does the US visa lottery allow?
Being randomly chosen in the US visa lottery does not guarantee that you will receive a diversity visa. Rather, selection means that you are eligible to apply for a visa, together with any qualifying family members.
Applicants who are selected in the US Visa Lottery must still meet the strict eligibility requirements to go on to qualify for a diversity visa. However, you will only need to provide documentary proof of your native country, education and/or work experience if you are selected.
In order to immigrate, selectees must also be admissible to the United States. Both the online immigrant visa application form and the consular officer, during interview, will ask you questions about your eligibility to immigrate under US law, including questions about criminal and security related topics.
Although there is no fee to enter the US Visa Lottery, successful entrants who wish to apply for a visa must pay all application fees and associated costs for themselves and any qualifying family members.
You must also prove that you will be able to support yourself and your family once you are living in the US, for example, in the form of personal assets, an affidavit of support from a relative or friend residing in the US, or an offer of employment from a US employer. Immigration under the US Visa Lottery does not entitle you to any financial or settlement assistance.
What are the odds for the US visa lottery?
The US Visa Lottery is drawn from random computerised selection from among qualified entries across six geographic regions, although no single country may receive more than 7% of the available diversity visas in any one year.
Given the likelihood that some of the first 50,000 persons selected in the US Visa Lottery will not qualify for a diversity visa, or pursue their cases to visa issuance, more than 50,000 entries will be initially selected to ensure that the Department of State issues all available visas.
The number of visas eventually issued to natives of each country will depend on the regional limits established, how many entrants come from each country and how many of the selected entrants are found eligible. However, all entries received within each region will have an equal chance of being selected.
Each month, diversity visas will be issued to applicants who are eligible for issuance during that month, as long as visas are still available. Once all of the available visas have been issued, the program will end for that year. As visa numbers could be exhausted quickly, successful entrants should be prepared to act promptly.
What are the timescales for the US visa lottery?
There is a limited timeframe each year to enter the US Visa Lottery. For the DV-2020 lottery the registration period ran from 3 October 2018 to 6 November 2018, where no late entries will be accepted. Any new entrants will now need to wait until 2019 to apply for the US visa lottery DV-2021.
If you have applied for the US Visa Lottery DV-2020 you can check the status of your entry from 7 May 2019 onwards. Interviews will begin in October 2019 for successful entrants who have submitted all pre-interview paperwork and other information as requested in the notification instructions.
Selectees will be informed of their visa interview appointment through the online entry status check four to six weeks before their scheduled interview.
All selectees, including family members, must be issued visas by 30 September 2020. The Department of State will not be able to issue a diversity visa after this date, nor can family members obtain a diversity visa to join the principal applicant in the US after this date.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.