Immigration Though Lottery


Each year, 50,000 immigrant visas are made available through a lottery to people who come from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. None of these visas are available for people who come from countries that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the past five years. The State Department’s National Visa Center holds the lottery every year, and chooses winners randomly from all qualified entries. Anyone who is selected under this lottery will be given the opportunity to apply for permanent residence. If permanent residence is granted, then the individual will be authorized to live and work permanently in the United States. You will also be allowed to bring your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States.



What does the Law Say?

The legal foundation for the Diversity Visa Lottery Program comes from the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Please see INA § 203 for more information.

Who is Eligible to Enter the Diversity Visa Lottery?

You or your spouse must be a native of a country that is eligible to participate in the Diversity Visa Lottery. You may also be eligible to apply if your parent was born in a country that is eligible to participate. (The State Department will publish the names of countries that are eligible to participate before each year’s lottery.)

You must have a high school diploma or the equivalent, defined in the United States as successful completion of a 12-year course of elementary and secondary education; OR you must have two years of work experience within the last five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform.

How Do I Apply?

The Department of State recently announced (August 18, 2003) in the Federal Register, a change in how applicants may petition to participate in the Diversity Visa lottery program. Starting this year, all persons registering for an opportunity to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa under the diversity lottery will have to do so electronically through a designated Internet website. The Department will no longer accept paper entries or mail-in requests for diversity visa registration.

The Department of State is implementing the new electronic system in order to improve efficiency in the diversity visa petition process and make the process less prone to fraud, thus making it less vulnerable to use by persons who may pose a threat to the security interests of the United States.

The Diversity Visa Program is administered by the Department of State. Applicants from eligible countries, as determined by the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, petition the Department of State for the opportunity to apply for one of 55,000 immigrant visa made available annually. Only those selected at random and notified by the Department of State will then be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa. Each year, approximately 6 million people worldwide register to participate in the program. Previously, all registrations were submitted by mail. Starting this year, only electronic submissions will be accepted.

Persons submitting a request for entry in the diversity visa lottery will use a specially designated website which will have a standard petition form that will be filled out and sent electronically. They will also be required to include digital photographs.

Further details and a direct link to the US Department of State’s on-line system will be provided on our web site when dates have been selected for the submission of petitions.

How Can I Find Out If I Won?

Only the winners will be notified by mail at the addresses listed on their applications. Winners will be sent instructions and information on fees. Being selected as a winner in the diversity visa lottery does not automatically guarantee that you will be issued a visa, even if you are qualified. The number of entries selected is greater than the number of immigrant visas available, because not everyone selected will be qualified for the visa or will choose to complete the processing. Once all 50,000 visas have been issued, the diversity visa program for the year will end.