Each year the U.S. Congress makes available 55,000 immigrant visas (aka, “green cards”) to applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery Program. The U.S. Department of State conducts the lottery and randomly selects approximately 100,600 applicants from a pool of millions of qualified entrants. From this selected applicant pool, a maximum of 50,000 diversity visas are then issued during the following fiscal year. Once all the visas are issued or the fiscal year ends, the program is closed. Recipients of diversity visas are authorized to live and work permanently in the United States. Additionally, they are allowed to sponsor a spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 for lawful permanent residence in the United States along with them.

The State Department will be accepting applications for the next diversity lottery from Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 12 p.m. EDT until Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 12 p.m. EST. Individuals may submit only one application, which must be filed electronically at www.dvlottery.state.gov during this period. Paper entries will not be accepted. Applicants are strongly encouraged not to wait until the last week of the registration period to enter. Heavy demand may result in website delays. No entries will be accepted after 12 p.m. EST on November 3, 2010.

All applications must be accompanied by a passport-style digital photograph of the applicant, the accompanying spouse and each unmarried child under the age of 21 (who is not a U.S. citizen). In order to qualify, an applicant must have EITHER a high school education or its equivalent OR two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience to perform. Each spouse in a family may submit a separate application that will cover both spouses and any dependent children.

The results of the lottery will be announced on a rolling basis in the late spring and early summer of 2011. Last year the State Department received approximately 12.1 million qualified entries, out which only 100,600 applicants were selected. Being selected in the diversity lottery does not guarantee permanent residency status. Instead, selected applicants are merely eligible to apply for permanent residency if their assigned rank number becomes current. Even then, the selected applicant must complete an extensive application process and satisfy national security and criminal background checks. Because the number of individuals selected in the lottery far exceeds the number of actual permanent visas available, it is critical that selected applicants be prepared to act quickly upon receiving the government notification in the mail. Applications that are not submitted and approved before the 50,000 limit is reached and before the end of the 2012 fiscal year will be denied.

Individuals in F-1, J-1 or other strict nonimmigrant status who are selected in the lottery are advised to consult an immigration attorney before submitting a permanent residency application in order to assess any potential consequences to their nonimmigrant status.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery Program was created to encourage people from countries with low immigration rates to immigrate to the U.S. Therefore, foreign nationals from countries with high levels of immigration to the United States are ineligible for the program. For the DV-2012 program, citizens from the following countries are not eligible to apply:

Brazil

El Salvador

Pakistan

Canada

Guatemala

Philippines

People's Republic of China*

Haiti

Peru Colombia

India

Poland

Dominican Republic

Jamaica

South Korea  

Ecuador

Mexico

U.K. and its dependent territories (except Northern Ireland)  

Vietnam  

* Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible.

Please see the U.S. Department of State's instructions for DV-2012, available on their website.