The Diversity Visa Program, commonly known as the “visa lottery” will start accepting applications on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 12:00 noon EDT and conclude on Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 12:00 noon EDT.  The Department of State (DOS) will post additional instructions in the coming weeks for interested applicants.  

The Diversity Visa Program allocates 50,000 “green cards” to eligible applicants from countries that are considered to be under-represented in the U.S.  Citizens from countries that are well-represented are typically not included in the program, such as Mainland China, Mexico, the Philippines, and India.  The list of eligible countries varies from year to year, and will be announced by the DOS shortly. 

The criteria to take part in the Diversity Program is relatively simple: citizenship in an eligible country and a high school education.  Because the number of applicants far exceeds the 50,000 “green cards” available, the program has become known over the years as the “Visa Lottery.”  However, the true intent of the program is to enable people from underrepresented countries to have a means to immigrate to the U.S., thus adding diversity to the immigrant population of the U.S. 

It should be noted that congressional representatives from time to time introduce bills to eliminate the Diversity Visa Program and re-allocate the 50,000 “green cards” to other programs.  While the Diversity Visa Program still exists, its long-term survivability is very much in doubt given its frequent appearance on the chopping block when immigration reform is debated by Congress.