The State Department has announced that it will accept applications for the FY 2016 "diversity immigrant visa" lottery beginning October 1, 2014. Applicants who are selected and approved may submit their green card applications starting on October 1, 2015.

The State Department annually accepts "diversity immigrant visa" applications from qualified individuals born in certain countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. Congress made 50,000 of these "diversity immigrant visas" (or "DVs") available for fiscal year 2016, drawn from a randomized computer lottery of all applicants. This year, the State Department will accept applications from October 1, 2014 until November 3, 2014.

Eligibility requirements are as follows. First, applicants must be born in countries who have historically low immigration rates. Individuals born in the following countries are ineligible to apply for a DV for fiscal year 2016:

Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born)**, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Nigeria, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. **Note: people born in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau may apply.

Those not born in an eligible country may still be able to apply for a DV through a spouse (if that spouse was born in an eligible country) or, in certain circumstances, through a parent. An applicant must also have a high school education (or its equivalent) or, alternatively, two years of work experience in certain positions to qualify.

Employers are often interested in having a qualifying employee apply for a DV in order to avoid the costly and intensive employment-based "green card" application process.

Registering to apply for the diversity visa program is done online at program site. The State Department encourages applicants not to wait until the last week of the registration period to enter, as heavy demand may result in website delays. Applicants will be able to check if they were selected in the randomized lottery starting May 1, 2015. Applicants should carefully follow the online instructions in order to avoid having their applications disqualified.

Prospective applicants are advised to contact immigration counsel for more information on the benefits of the DV program and for answers to any questions they may have about whether they qualify for the program.