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Diversity Lottery Laws

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What Is the Diversity Visa Program?

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program provides an annual lottery that gives immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States the chance to apply for a diversity visa.

Each year, the Department of State selects participants at random using a computer system. Since it's random, the process is known as the diversity lottery. For 2015, there will be 50,000 diversity visa’s available ("DV-2015"). Because some selectees may not be eligible for the visa or will fail to complete the process, more participants will be selected than there are diversity visas available. These visas will be issued to eligible applicants until they are gone.

A diversity visa is a green card, granting permanent residency status.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for a diversity visa, you must meet the following minimum requirements:

Requirement 1: You must have been born in a qualifying country, or meet one of the following exceptions.

  • If your spouse was born in a qualifying country, you may claim your spouse’s country of birth if both you and your spouse are named on the selected entry and you are both issued diversity visas at the same time; or
  • If one of your parents was born in a qualifying country and neither of your parents were legal residents of your birth-country at the time of your birth, you may claim nativity in your parent’s birth-country.

Requirement 2: You must have the equivalent of a high school education or at least two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of experience (according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net Online database).

When to Apply for the Diversity Lottery?

The application window for DV-2015 is October 1, 2013 through November 2, 2013. A new lottery is held each year.

How to Apply for the Lottery?

To apply, submit an application online using the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form (E-DV Entry Form or DS-5501) along with an entry photograph of yourself, your spouse, and your children. There is no fee to apply for the lottery. Incomplete entries will not be considered.

When you submit your entry application, you will receive a confirmation number. Starting May 1, 2014, you will be able to use the number to do an Entry Status Check at to see if you are selected. No notice will be sent to selectees. Because the only way to see if you were selected is to check online using your confirmation number, it is very important to keep your confirmation number.

You may only apply once per lottery. However, if you are married, both you and your spouse may apply. If one of you is selected, the other may apply for a Diversity Visa as a derivative dependent.

What If You Win?

If your entry is selected, you will be directed to a confirmation page that will provide further instructions on how to apply for a Diversity Visa.

What If You Are Not Selected?

If you are not selected or are selected but are not issued a visa for the DV-2015 lottery, you must reapply at a later lottery.

Should I Hire an Immigration Attorney?

A late, incomplete, or deficient application may derail your chances to obtain a Diversity Visa. If you are selected for the lottery, you should consult with an immigration attorney to help navigate the process.

Photo of page author Brandon Rose

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 05-23-2018 07:48 PM PDT

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