What is the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program?

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program), also known as the diversity visa lottery, allows up to 55,000 randomly selected individuals to receive immigrant visas to live in the United States. Receiving an immigrant visa is an important step to receiving a Green Card. Individuals selected for a diversity visa can apply for a Green Card after obtaining their immigrant visa.

Who Qualifies for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program?

Educational Requirements

In order to qualify for the diversity visa lottery, an applicant must have at least a high school education or equivalent, or the applicant must have two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform.

Besides educational and experiential requirements, an applicant must be from, or have a qualifying connection to, a country with low rates of immigration to the United States. There are essentially three ways in which an individual’s country may qualify for the diversity visa lottery.

Applicant’s Country of Birth

The diversity immigrant visa program is available to individuals from countries who have historically low rates of immigration to the United States. Generally, countries that have had fewer than 50,000 individuals immigrating to the United States over the past five 5 are eligible for the diversity visa lottery. There are numerous countries that qualify under this criteria. The United States Department of State releases detailed instructions each year dictating which countries are eligible.

Spouse’s Country of Birth

An individual may also be eligible for the diversity visa lottery if his or her spouse is a native of a country with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. The applicant would simply name both the applicant and the spouse on the lottery entry, claim the spouse’s country of birth, and enter the United States simultaneously.

Parent’s Country of Birth

An individual may also be eligible for the diversity visa lottery if his or her parents were not born nor a legal resident of the applicant’s country. This form of eligibility is useful when the applicant is not from a country with historically low rates of immigration to the United States, but the applicant’s parents are originally from a different country that does have historically low rates of immigration to the United States.

How to Know if a Country is Eligible?

Because eligible countries are based on the amount of immigrant visas distributed outside of the diversity visa program, countries may move from eligible to ineligible and vice versa over time. The Department of State publishes detailed instructions on its website listing the currently eligible countries.

How to Apply for the Diversity Visa Lottery?

There are multiple steps to apply for the diversity visa lottery, but the Department of State has worked to make online applications easy to understand and complete. The steps to apply are discussed below.

Applicants Inside the United States

Individuals who are in the United States as a non-immigrant may enter into the diversity visa lottery. However, if an individual who is in the United States wins the lottery, he or she must submit Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

When submitting Form I-485, the applicant must submit certain documentation evidence:

Step One: Know the Entry Period

There is a limited time period each year, usually in autumn, when individuals may submit applications for selection in the diversity visa lottery. The application period is usually open for around one month, and no late entries are accepted.

Step Two: Submit an Entry

An entry into the diversity visa lottery is made online by submitting the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form (E-DV Entry Form or DS-5501) online at dvprogram.state.gov.

When submitting an entry, an applicant will have to provide several pieces of identifying and personal information, including:

  • Name
  • Gender
  • Date of Birth
  • City of Birth
  • Country of Birth
  • Country of Eligibility in DV Program
  • Passport Information
  • Photograph of Applicant
  • Mailing Address
  • Current Country of Residence
  • Phone Number
  • Active Email Address
  • Highest Educational Level
  • Current Marital Status
  • Number of Children

Step Three: Selection of Applicants

Sometime in May the year following the application period, applicants are informed if their entry was randomly selected or not. All applicants will be notified if they were selected on the diversity visa lottery website, dvprogram.state.gov. Applicants will not be notified of their selection by email. However, it is important applicants retain the same email address that they used when submitting an entry so applicants can receive information from the Department of State following their selection.

The Department of State’s Visa Bulletin will provide the applicant information about when a diversity visa may become available to the applicant, based on the applicant’s numerical rank. Selection in the lottery does not mean that an applicant will necessarily receive a visa.

Step Four: Complete Form DS-260, Supporting Documents, and Photograph Online

After being selected, an applicant must file Form DS-260 with the Department of State, and submit a photo of the applicant that meets specific requirements, and supporting documentation evidencing the applicant’s identity and qualifications for the lottery, including passport documentation and educational history documentation.

Step Five: Attend Medical Examination

After an applicant’s Form DS-260 has been reviewed, he or she must attend a medical examination with a qualified physician and receive any required vaccinations prior to the scheduled visa interview date. The embassy or consulate where the applicant will be interviewing can provide a list of qualified doctors to perform the medical examination.

Step Six: Interview at U.S. Consulate or Embassy

The applicant will receive notice of an interview scheduled at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy selected by the applicant on Form DS-260. An interview will only be scheduled when a visa number becomes available to the applicant. The applicant should refer to the specific consulate or embassy’s website for any specific requirements it may have for the interview. The applicant, his or her spouse, and any qualified unmarried children who will immigrate to the U.S. with the applicant must attend an interview.

Generally, the interview will consist of a meeting with a consular officer who will discuss the application materials with the applicant, his or her desire to immigrate to the United States, and his or her qualifications for the diversity visa lottery.

The applicant must bring to the interview:

  • Two identical photographs that conform to the photo requirements;
  • Printed appointment information;
  • DS-260 confirmation page;
  • Passport(s);
  • Proof of payment of fee;
  • Medical exam results;
  • Copies of originally documents electronically submitted;
  • Educational certificates;
  • Birth certificate;
  • Marriage certificate;
  • Custody documentation for children;
  • Deportation documentation, if applicable.

How Much Does the Diversity Visa Lottery Cost?

Entering into the diversity visa lottery is free. For individuals who are selected in the lottery, the diversity visa fee is $330 per person.