The 2013 Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery opened on Tuesday, 4 October 2011. Entries must be submitted electronically by noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4), Saturday, 5 November 2011. Applicants must submit the DS-5501, the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form (E-DV entry form), from during the registration period.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is administered on an annual basis by the Department of State and conducted under the terms of Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) Section 131 of the Immigration Act of 1990 (Pub. L. 101-649) amended INA 203. The law requires a maximum of 55,000 Diversity visas (DV) each fiscal year be made available to persons known as "diversity immigrants" from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

The annual DV program makes immigrant visas (resulting in U.S. permanent resident status) available to persons meeting the eligibility requirements. 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 that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States during 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-2013, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply because the countries sent a total of more than 50,000 immigrants each to the United States in the previous five years: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, The 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, as are Polish and South Sudanese natives.