The Diversity Visa lottery, also known as the DV or Green Card Lottery, opened for a period of roughly one month on October 2, 2019 and will close on November 5, 2019.

As immigration attorneys we have helped countless people immigrate to the US through this unique program. Based on past cases we have handled and questions we have received recently, here are some important points to know about the DV Lottery if you are considering applying this month:

Who is eligible?

To qualify for the lottery, the applicant will need to have a high school diploma or qualifying work experience. In addition, as the purpose of the program is to encourage immigration from countries with low rates of immigration to the US, people born in certain overrepresented countries, that is, countries that already have high US immigration rates, such as China, India, Mexico, the Philippines and more, will not qualify. There are a handful of countries that do not qualify; however, most birth countries do qualify. A complete list of qualifying and non-qualifying birth countries can be found in the official DV instructions, here. Spouses and children under 21 are eligible to accompany the main applicant.

How do I apply and when do I find out if I won?

Submitting a lottery entry is done through the US Department of State’s website: https://dvlottery.state.gov/, which is open as of October 2, 2019. Entries will be accepted until 12pm EST on November 5, 2019. The winners will start to be announced in May 2020, and the actual US immigration process for these winners will take place between October 2020 - September 2021. Hence, this year’s process beginning with the lottery entries next month is referred to as the “DV-2021” lottery season.

What do I “win?” When do I get the Green Card?

A common misconception is that winners receive actual Green Cards, that is, Lawful Permanent Residence in the US. In fact, what you “win” is the qualification that allows you to go through the US immigration process. Before one can start the US immigration process, one must qualify to immigrate, that is, through family, for example by having a US citizen spouse or parent, through specific types of work or investment, or through a handful of other less common methods, such as winning the DV lottery. Qualifying for US immigration is generally difficult and not available to most people. Winning the DV lottery essentially completes this qualifying step that is often difficult and out of reach for most, and allows the applicant to proceed to the immigration process, which involves proving financial support, obtaining criminal and medical clearances, submitting a great deal of personal and family information, and more.

It sounds too good to be true. How do I know it’s not a scam?

The good news is that although there have been recurring discussions to terminate the DV Lottery within the US government in the past few years, currently the program is active, and an effective way that many people have been able to relocate to the US and build a life there. However, there are many frauds and scams and unqualified professionals offering services that make it difficult to navigate the process. You can find guidance on DV lottery fraud here, provided by the US Department of State.

How do I avoid all the trouble and apply the right way?

In our experience, the best way for applicants to submit accurate DV lottery entries is simply to apply yourself directly through the government’s website, by carefully following the instructions and submitting accurate information. If you have trouble, or just want to be extra careful, you can retain our office to submit the entry for you. This generally does not take a lot of time.

If you are lucky enough to win, then it becomes important to retain a qualified immigration attorney. Unlike submitting a lottery entry, which can be done relatively quickly, the immigration process for lottery winners is complex, and requires submitting information in multiple steps, obtaining and submitting authenticated civil documents, and preparing for a consular interview, over the course of more than a year.

Applying for the DV lottery can be done concurrently with other US immigration and visa processes.