Understanding the Green Card Lottery

15 May 2023

The U.S. government established the Green Card Lottery, also known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. The program provides a pathway for individuals from countries with low rates of immigration. The lottery helps these individuals obtain permanent residency (green cards) in the United States. Annually, the program makes a certain number of visas available to individuals from eligible countries.

Who is Eligible?

  • Natives of countries with historically low rates of immigration to the US.
  • Immigrants who meet one of the following education/work experience requirements.
    • At least a high school education or its equivalent, defined as successful completion of a 12-year course of formal elementary and secondary education.
    • Two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform. The Department of State determines qualifying work experience.

Can I Still Apply if I’m Not From a Qualified Country?

Technically, yes. But, only if you meet one of two requirements.

  • Your spouse was born in a qualified country. However, if you claim chargeability based on a derivative spouse, you will only be granted a visa if your spouse is granted one as well.
  • One of your parents was born in a qualified country and they did not live in your country of birth at your time of birth.

How Old Do I Have to Be to Apply?

According to the Department of State, there is no minimum age to apply. However, in order to satisfy the education/work experience required, most individuals are above 18.

When Should I Apply?

The application process for the Green Card Lottery typically takes place in the fall of each year. Applicants must complete an online application and submit it within a specific timeframe. The program mandates that applicants provide basic personal information, as well as a recent photograph. The online application is free of charge. The program chooses successful applicants through a randomized computer selection process. Then, it notifies and provides instructions on the next steps in the process to those selected.

Who Gets Selected?

Dependent on the number of applications, the US Department of State uses a computer-generated random system to select qualified applicants. Typically, the program chooses around 50,000 applicants.

How Do I Know If I’m Selected?

You can determine whether you were selected by checking your status and entering your confirmation number. This portal is the only means by which you will be notified. However, the Department of State will NOT notify you if you are not selected.

What Happens If I’m Selected?

It’s important to note that winning the Green Card Lottery is not a guarantee of permanent residency, and applicants must still meet all of the eligibility requirements and pass all necessary background checks and interviews. If the program selects you, you may be eligible for a DiversityVisa and will then have to go through all the necessary steps to obtain one.

Overall, the Green Card Lottery can provide an opportunity for individuals from eligible countries to obtain permanent residency in the United States, but it’s important to carefully review the eligibility requirements and understand the application process before applying. At Midwest Law, we have special training to assist you in determining whether the green card lottery is suitable for you. Contact us today to find out.


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