Applying for the Green Card Lottery: Timeline, Expenses, and Procedure


A Beginner's Guide to the Diversity Visa Lottery

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, facilitated by the State Department, enhances the U.S. immigrant population's diversity. This annual program awards over 50,000 green cards to individuals from countries with historically low immigration rates to the United States, enabling them to achieve permanent residency. It serves as a critical pathway for individuals and families without other means of legally immigrating to the U.S. To enter the Diversity Visa lottery, applicants complete a straightforward, no-cost online form available yearly from early October to early November. Selections are made randomly by computer, granting winners and their immediate relatives the chance to obtain green cards. The program not only enriches the multicultural tapestry of the U.S. but also offers a life-changing opportunity for many around the globe, emphasizing the United States' commitment to diversity and inclusion.

2025 Diversity Visa Lottery: Open for Applications

The application window for the 2025 Diversity Visa Lottery has officially opened. It commenced at noon EDT on October 4, 2023, and will close at noon EDT on November 7, 2023. Continue reading for detailed instructions on the application process.

Costs Associated with the Diversity Visa Program

Entry into the green card lottery is free of charge, ensuring equal access for all applicants. Should you be fortunate enough to be selected for a Diversity Visa, subsequent steps involve covering the costs associated with the green card application process. Detailed information regarding these necessary fees can be found on the official Diversity Visa program website at, which will guide selected participants through the payment procedures. It's important to budget for these expenses in advance to ensure a smooth application process following selection.

Understanding the Diversity Visa Program Schedule

Recipients of the Diversity Visa through the green card lottery are usually informed about their selection approximately 7 months following their application submission. After being selected, the process to schedule an interview and ultimately receive the visa can extend up to 14 months, highly dependent on the promptness of visa application submission. For instance, participants in the 2023 green card lottery (with registrations in Oct-Nov 2021) would expect notification by May 2022. Visa applications must then be filed within the 2023 fiscal year, spanning from October 1, 2022, to September 30, 2023. Early application within this timeframe accelerates the interview scheduling and visa issuance. Upon receiving the visa, entrants are required to enter the United States by the visa's expiry date, which is generally valid for 6 months from issuance. This timeline emphasizes the importance of timely action at each step to avoid delays in leveraging the opportunity provided by the Diversity Visa.

Qualifying for the Diversity Visa Program

To be eligible for the Diversity Visa, applicants must meet two primary criteria:

  1. Country of Origin

The Diversity Visa Program's eligibility criteria primarily hinge on the applicant's country of birth, aiming to admit individuals from nations that have sent fewer than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the previous five years. High immigration nations such as India, China, Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom consistently do not qualify. For the 2023 application period, nationals from Vietnam, Venezuela, South Korea, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Jamaica, India, Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, China (Hong Kong SAR included), Canada, Brazil, Bangladesh, and the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland excepted) and its territories were not eligible. To access the latest list of eligible countries and understand more about the Diversity Visa Program, the State Department's website is a valuable resource. This program is designed to broaden the diversity of the immigrant population in the U.S. by inviting people from a wide variety of countries.

Even if you hail from a country that does not qualify for the Diversity Visa, you still have a couple of alternatives to become eligible:

  • a) Should your spouse originate from a country that is eligible, you have the option to apply together and select your spouse's country of birth for the application.
  • b) In case both of your parents were not legal residents of your country of birth at the time of your birth, you may elect to use the birth country of either your mother or father for your application.
  1. Educational and Professional Qualifications

A crucial criterion for Diversity Visa candidates involves educational or professional experience. Applicants need to possess either a high school diploma or its equivalent. Alternatively, if you lack this level of education, you must demonstrate at least two years of work experience over the last five years in an occupation that necessitates a minimum of two years of training or experience, according to standards set by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Entering the Diversity Visa Lottery

Joining the Diversity Visa Lottery is straightforward. Simply complete a form on the State Department's website during the open registration period, which runs from early October to early November. While most questions on the form are straightforward, the following tips might enhance your application process:

  1. Country of Birth: Indicate the country where you were born, irrespective of your current residence. If the country has changed its name since your birth, use its current name.
  2. Country of Eligibility: Enter your birth country, or, if applicable, the birth country of your spouse or parents that qualifies you. The country where you now reside does not affect this answer.
  3. Listing Your Spouse: It's required to include details about your spouse, regardless of whether they currently live with you or plan to immigrate with you.
  4. Listing Your Children: All biological and adopted children must be listed, regardless of age. Step-children under the age of 21 should also be included, even if the marriage to their parent has ended.

Remember to attach recent photographs (taken within the last six months) of yourself, your spouse, and any children, adhering to the same specifications as those for a green card application. After submitting your application, safeguard your confirmation number; it's the sole method to verify if you've been successfully selected.

Determining Winners and Their Notification Process

Diversity Visa lottery selections are made through a randomized computer drawing, ensuring a fair distribution of visas across different global regions, with a cap that prevents any single country from claiming more than 7% of the total Diversity Visas available each year. Entrants can start checking the status of their submission from early May of the year following their application by accessing the Entrant Status Check feature on the Diversity Visa website. This underscores the crucial need to retain your confirmation number, as it's essential for verifying your selection status. Successful candidates and their family members must then satisfy all standard criteria applicable to U.S. green card applicants, including passing criminal background checks and medical examinations. Certain criminal histories or health issues may disqualify you from obtaining a green card. Remember, diligent preparation and compliance with all application requirements can significantly enhance your chances of success.

What Are the Next Steps After Being Selected in the Green Card Lottery?

Once selected for the Diversity Visa, swift action is crucial, even though your move to the United States might still be some time away. Promptness is essential for two key reasons. Firstly, your application needs to be processed and your visa issued within the fiscal year of your selection. Secondly, the number of selectees exceeds the available visas, and delaying action could mean missing out on available slots. Upon notification of your Diversity Visa win, you'll receive a numerical ranking indicating your turn to apply for the visa. By the end of July, you can consult the State Department’s visa bulletin to determine when your application submission window opens. Visas are issued starting October 1, marking the beginning of the U.S. fiscal year, and applications can be submitted up to 90 days in advance.

Applying from Outside the United States

For those selected for the Diversity Visa living abroad, the standard procedure is to secure a green card via the U.S. consulate in their native country. Promptly after learning a visa is available, you must complete and submit Form DS-260 to the National Visa Center. Your application will then be reviewed and sent to the U.S. consulate, which arranges an interview for the visa. Successful candidates who satisfy all criteria will receive their immigrant visa during this interview. It's essential to gather and prepare all necessary documents, including proof of financial support and medical examinations, before the interview to avoid delays.

Applying from Within the United States

Winners of the Diversity Visa residing in the U.S. under a temporary immigration status will proceed by applying for a green card through the USCIS, utilizing Form I-485. It's crucial to file your application promptly once a visa number is announced as available in the visa bulletin. This process allows for a change of status without the need to leave the country, providing a seamless transition to permanent residency. Ensure that your current status remains valid throughout the application process to maintain eligibility.

Beware of Diversity Visa Scams

The Diversity Visa program, while a beacon of hope for many, unfortunately attracts fraudsters aiming to exploit those dreaming of a new life in the United States. To safeguard yourself from common scams, keep these points in mind:

  • A) The application process for the Diversity Visa lottery is entirely free. Any claims that payment is required on behalf of the Department of State are fraudulent. It's crucial to remember that the Department of State communicates neither through email nor postal mail regarding lottery results. The sole method to verify if you've been selected is by checking your status through the official Entrant Status Check on their website.
  • B) Participating in the Diversity Visa lottery offers a unique opportunity to secure a path to the U.S. without needing family or employment sponsorship, though the chances of selection are slim. For those married to U.S. citizens, pursuing a marriage-based green card typically presents a more straightforward pathway to residency.

Wishing all applicants the best of luck in navigating the application process and achieving their American dream. Stay vigilant and informed to protect your aspirations from being undermined by scams!

Last Updated 04/08/24 09:07:57AM

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