Diversity Visa Lottery

Each year, the United States allocates 55,000 immigrant visas for aliens who win the diversity visa lottery. This lottery is designed to allow aliens who come from countries with low rates of immigration and who may not otherwise qualify for immigration to the United States through family or employment to obtain legal permanent residency. The State Department’s National Visa Center holds the lottery every year and chooses winners randomly from all qualified entries.

Although sponsorship by a qualifying family member or employer is not required, the alien applicant can enter the Diversity Visa Lottery even if the applicant has a relative or employer visa petition pending. If the applicant wins the Diversity Visa Lottery, the applicant’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 can obtain green cards at the same time the green card is issued to the primary diversity visa immigrant.

Who is Eligible to Enter the Diversity Visa Lottery?

The applicant and his or her spouse must be a native of a country that is eligible to participate in the Diversity Visa Lottery. (Please see the list below of countries that are eligible to participate. The State Department will publish the names of countries that are eligible to participate before each year’s lottery.) In general, the applicant’s place of birth determines nativity. However, if a person was born in an ineligible country but his or her spouse was born in an eligible country, such person can claim the spouse’s country of birth rather than his or her own. Also, if a person was born in an ineligible country, but neither of his or her parents was born there or resided there at the time of the birth, such person may be able to claim nativity in one of the parents’ country of birth. The Diversity Visa Lottery applicant must have at least a high school diploma (or equivalent) or two years of work experience in an occupation that requires two or more years of work experience and/or training.

Who is Not Eligible to Apply?

Aliens who are from the following countries are ineligible to apply for the Diversity Visa Lottery (except as noted above):

  • Canada
  • China (Mainland and Taiwan, except Hong Kong S.A.R.)
  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories
  • Vietnam