The Green Card Lottery Allows Many Foreign Nationals to Apply for the Opportunity to Get a Green Card Independent of Work or Family


  • There is a limited application period for many foreign nationals to apply for the chance to get a green card.
  • U.S. law authorizes 50,000 immigrant visas ("green cards") to be available annually for "diversity immigrants."

The U.S. Department of State's Diversity Visa 2016 Immigrant Visa Program (more commonly referred to as the "Green Card Lottery") begins Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, at 12:00 p.m. EDT and ends Monday, Nov. 3, 2014, at 12:00 p.m. EST.

U.S. law authorizes 50,000 immigrant visas ("green cards") to be available annually for "diversity immigrants." This is popularly referred to as a visa "lottery" because applicants are randomly chosen through a computer program among qualified applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. For the 2016 Green Card Lottery, nationals from the following countries are not eligible to apply because more than 50,000 natives from these countries have immigrated to the United States in the last five years: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, 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.

Additional information and instructions for the submission of an application must be filed electronically through the U.S. Department of State's website. The primary prerequisites to enter the lottery are that the applicant meets one of the following two criteria:

  1. a high school education or the foreign equivalent (defined as successful completion of a 12-year course of elementary and secondary education)
  2. two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience to perform

Many Visa Lottery Scams in Previous Years

The visa lottery in past years has been subject to many scams. There is no fee to apply and paying a third party a fee to file the application provides no benefit. Only one application may be submitted per applicant – duplicate applications will render the applicant ineligible. If chosen in the lottery, an applicant is not guaranteed a green card, but is given the opportunity for him or her and eligible family members to apply for U.S. permanent residence and evidence eligibility.

For those who plan to apply, it is recommended to do so early.