The Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery program is an annual lottery run by the US Department of State which offers up to 55,000 permanent resident visas each year to randomly selected applicants from eligible countries. The lottery is run once a year, usually in October. The online registration for DV-2012 begins at noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), on Tuesday, October 5, 2010, and ends at noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), on Wednesday, November 3, 2010. See the DV Instructions webpage for more information.

The annual DV program makes visas available to persons meeting simple, but strict, eligibility requirements. A computer-generated, random lottery drawing chooses “winners” of permanent residency visas. The visas are distributed among six geographic regions, with a greater number of visas going to regions with lower rates of immigration, and with no visas going to nationals of countries sending more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States over the past five years. Within each region, no single country may receive more than seven percent of the available DVs in any one year.

For DV-2012, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply because each country sent a total of more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the previous five years:

Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

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

Most individuals enter the lottery without legal assistance. However, if selected, winners often need legal assistance to process their “green card” cases. The lottery operates under tight time constraints and winners are announced on a rolling basis, which makes timing a major concern. It is important to file everything correctly and to comply with various technical requirements within the proper timeframe. Thus, a qualified immigration lawyer can be important for the consular processing or adjustment-of-status portion of the case.