Each year the U.S. Congress makes available approximately 50,000 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 100,000 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 4, 2011 at 12 p.m. EDT until Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 12 p.m. EDT. 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. EDT on November 5, 2011.

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 2012. Last year the State Department received approximately 14.7 million qualified entries, out of which only 100,021 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 2013 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-2013 program, citizens from the following countries are not eligible to apply:

Bangladesh                             El Salvador     Philippines

Brazil                                       Guatemala      Peru

Canada                                    Haiti               South Korea 

People’s Republic of China*    India                U.K. and its dependent territories (except Northern Ireland)

Colombia                                Jamaica           Vietnam

Dominican Republic                Mexico              

Ecuador                                 Pakistan 

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

Please see the U.S. Department of State’s instructions for DV-2013, available at http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1318.html.

Please Note: There have been instances of fraudulent websites posing as official U.S. Government sites. Some companies posing as the U.S. Government have sought money in order to “complete” lottery entry forms. There is no charge to download and complete the electronic diversity visa entry form. The Department of State notifies successful diversity visa applicants by letter and not by email.

Click here for a statistical breakdown, by region and country, of the successful applicants for the DV-2012 diversity lottery program (Note: These applicants applied in the fall of 2010 and were selected for further processing in the late spring/early summer of 2011). These statistics are provided simply as a view of the last Diversity Visa lottery. Because it is a random drawing, the numbers can vary substantially from year to year.