Green card lottery

Green card lottery (what it is and how you can enter)

What is a green card?

Having a green card is an informal way of saying you have United States lawful permanent residency. It is the immigration status of a person authorized to live and work in the United States permanently. The name green card came about from the color of the forms that were filled for immigration status. The name has stuck since then.

How long is it valid for?

Green cards are valid for 10 years for permanent residents. After this period, the card must be renewed or replaced. The full application process, from start to finish (that is from the time you submit your application to the time you are granted a green card) may take several years.

What is the green card lottery?

The United States has a generous visa lottery platform where around 50,000 immigrant visas are made available through the Diversity Visa (DV) program, also known as the Green Card Lottery to people who were born in countries with low rates of immigration to the United States (fewer than 50,000 immigrants in the past five years). If you are selected under this lottery you will be given the opportunity to apply for permanent residence. You can also file for your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21.

For this year- 2018, the Green Card Lottery Program is called DV-2020; 2020 being the year successful applicants may enter the United States on the green card they won. It is now open to all individuals worldwide who meet two basic entry requirements. The Program makes Permanent Resident Cards available to the winners, authorizing the winners and their families to live, study and work in the United States of America as permanent residents.

The DV Program is based on random selection among all entries to individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. It is administered by the U.S. Department of State (DOS).

Most lottery winners reside outside the United States and immigrate through consular processing and issuance of an immigrant visa.

To apply for a diversity visa, follow the steps on the Diversity Visa Process on

Are you eligible?

To be Eligible to enter the Green Card Lottery you must be a native of a qualifying country. You must be a foreign citizen or national not born in the United States of America, from a country with a low immigration rate to the United States. People born in countries with high US immigration are excluded from this immigration program. The following countries are excluded from the DV2020 program:

Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland only), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India. Others are Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland), and Vietnam.

How to Apply

Firstly, confirm that you are from one of the qualifying countries.

Log onto the site, follow the prompts “Immigrate” and proceed to create an account.

Once you confirm your account, fill in the required information and upload photos of yourself and any co-applicants. You may apply for your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21. Submit your application and check online periodically. You can visit the Department of State’s website to check your status at  Lottery winners are notified by the US Government by mail and email.

What happens if I get it?

If you are selected in the lottery, you can then begin the immigrant visa application process. If you live outside the U.S. will need to file applications for immigrant visas at your U.S. Embassies or Consulates. Once your immigrant visa applications are approved, you will be scheduled visa interviews. If all goes well and you are eligible for legal permanent resident status in the U.S., immigrant visas will be issued to you (and your family, if applicable) these visas must be “activated” within six months of issuance at any port of entry to the United States. That means you will have to move to the United within that timeframe.

Watch out for frauds

Applicants are advised to use only official U.S. government websites, in which the URL ends in .gov. and to never send money to anyone who sends you a letter or email claiming you have won the lottery. Fraudulent green card lottery scams have risen over the years, to take advantage of innocent applicants who genuinely wish to emigrate to the U.S. False agents take money from applicants by promising to submit application forms for them. Most agents are not working for the distribution service. Some claim that they can increase your chances of winning the lottery. These claims are false and may in fact delay or not submit your application.

Some agents may claim to provide winners free airline tickets or other benefits, such as submissions in future years or cash funds. Beware of any and all fraudulent claims.

Take Note

If you ever want to visit the United States as a visitor or with a non-immigrant visa, entering the green card lottery could make that more difficult. When you apply for a U.S. non-immigrant visa, you generally must prove your non-immigrant intent. That is, you intend to return to your home country. But by entering the green card lottery, you are indicating your desire to immigrate to the United States. If you later on decide that you would like to visit the U.S. and apply for a travel or student visa, you must disclose your participation in the green card lottery. The results of the lottery don’t matter. The problem that arises is that you have expressed interest in immigrating to the U.S. This will likely be taken into account by a consular officer when making a determination on a non-immigrant visa. Participation in the lottery will not automatically bar you issuance of a non-immigrant visa, but your application will be scrutinized more closely.


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