The U.S. Department of State (DOS) recently published instructions for the 2018 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (also known as the “DV Lottery” or “Green Card Lottery”). The Green Card Lottery makes available 50,000 permanent resident visas (green cards) each fiscal year to qualified applicants who meet the eligibility requirements and who are from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. Qualified applicants are chosen by random drawing.

Application Process

Entries must be submitted to the DOS between noon (Eastern Daylight Time) on Tuesday, October 4, 2016, and noon (Eastern Standard Time) on Monday, November 7, 2016. Registration for the lottery is free. Late entries are not accepted.

Lottery entries must be submitted electronically with digital photos. Paper entries are not accepted. The application can be accessed at during the registration period. Applicants should print the confirmation screen after submitting an application entry. Individuals with more than one entry will be disqualified.

Eligibility Requirements

All foreign nationals are eligible to apply for the Green Card Lottery except natives of the following countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. Unlike last year, persons born in Ecuador are eligible this year. Like last year, persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible.

Persons born in an ineligible country may nonetheless be eligible through a process known as “alternate chargeability.” Through this process, the applicant may be able to claim the country of birth of a parent or spouse.

Applicants are also required to have a high school education (or the equivalent) or at least two years of qualifying work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience to perform the job.

Results of the DV Lottery

Results will be available starting May 2, 2017. Winning applicants must complete the processing of their green cards between October 1, 2017, and September 30, 2018.

Because the DV Lottery provides an alternate path to U.S. permanent residence and is not subject to the long quota backlogs applicable to some green card categories, employers may want to inform eligible employees of the DV Lottery option. If an employee is selected for the lottery, employers may seek the assistance of counsel to assist the employee in completing the green card process prior to the September 30, 2018, deadline.

For more information including complete DOS instructions, please visit the DV Lottery Program page.