The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) is a U.S. Department of State program that provides a lottery system for individuals to obtain visas. A diversity visa is a green card that grants an individual permanent residency status in the U.S.

The DV Program has up to 50,000 visas are available each year to immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. The countries on this list can change depending on how the immigration rate fluctuates each year. The participants who win the visas are randomly selected by a computer program.

Who is Eligible for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program?

To qualify and to be able to apply for a diversity visa, you must meet the following requirements:

  1. You must have been born in an eligible country, which can change from year to year. If you are were not, you can meet one of these exceptions to be deemed eligible:
    • Your spouse was born in an eligible country, both you and your spouse are named on the entry and both of you are issued a diversity visa during the same selection period; or
    • One of your parents was born in an eligible country and neither were legal residents of your birth country (which would be different than the parent’s birth country) when you were born.
  2. You must have a high school education or the equivalent of a high school degree or 2) at least two years of qualifying work experience within the past five years in an approved occupation. Check with your immigration lawyer or the U.S. Department of State website to determine if you meet this requirement.

What is the Application Process for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program?

Here are some important things to know about the application process:

  • The application window is about a month long and usually runs from sometime in October-November. This window will be open once each year.
  • Only one application per registration period is allowed. However, if you are married, both you and your spouse may apply. If only one of you is selected, the other may apply for a Diversity Visa as a derivative dependent.
  • The application must be done electronically.
  • No late entry options are available under any circumstances.
  • There is no cost to register.
  • You will be able to check the status of your application online.
  • Only your spouse and children can be included as dependents. Your parents, siblings or other family members will not qualify as dependents on your application.

While some of the information will need to be more detailed (as outlined on the application form), the following information will be required to successfully complete your application:

  • Name as it appears on your passport;
  • Gender;
  • Birthday;
  • Birth country and city;
  • Country of eligibility for the DV Program;
  • Marital status and number of children;
  • Recent photograph of yourself, spouse and children;
  • Current mailing address (including country of residence);
  • Email and phone number; and
  • Highest level of education completed.

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. This will be require more paperwork and the process will differ based on whether you are currently residing in the U.S. or outside of the country. You will also need to be deemed as qualified to receive a visa to move forward with the process.

There will also be fees associated with obtaining a green card. Most individuals applying for a diversity visa generally are not currently residing in the U.S. If you are not selected or are selected but are not issued a visa for the current year, you must reapply during the next year’s lottery.

How Can New Immigration Policies Impact the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program?

The immigration policies of the U.S. may change in the future. If this occurs, the DV Program could be restricted or eliminated entirely. Possible changes could include decreasing the number of countries on the list and the number of lottery visas allotted each year.

We could even possible see stricter requirements regarding education and skill required. As immigration is always a highly debated political topic, be sure to keep tabs on any changing policies that could affect the DV Program and visa application process.

Should I Hire an Immigration Attorney to Apply for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program?

It does not hurt to consult an immigration attorney or visa consultant to assist with your DV Program application. The requirements are strict and you do not want to miss any important information.

However, the government encourages applicants to fill out the entry form on their own, so if you do have someone help you apply you should be present and provide all the information requested. If you are actually selected for the lottery, you should definitely consult with an immigration attorney to help navigate the process because the next steps will be much more complex.