October 20, 2020

How The Green Card Lottery Works

The official name of the Green Card Lottery is the Diversity Immigrant Visa, and it is a US congress mandated program allowing 50,000 “diversity immigrants” every year to receive a Green Card, or US Permanent Resident Card. The 50,000 places are made available to immigrants from countries which have historically had a low rate of emigration to the United States. The entry period to apply for the 2011 lottery runs from 5th October 2010 to 3rd November 2010.
Green Card Lottery
The Green Card Lottery was first introduced in 1995, under the terms of section 203 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Every year 50,000 persons are selected from countries which historically have had low rates of emigration to the US.

Any person from a country which has sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the US in the last five years cannot enter the lottery. [Note that some categories of immigrant such as asylum seekers are excluded from this calculation] For the next lottery (DV-2011), this rule excludes potential immigrants from Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, many Latin American and Caribbean countries, mainland China, Pakistan, India, South Korea, Poland and the Philippines.

In addition if a person is eligible to enter the lottery, his or her probability of getting a green card will depend on the historic rate of emigration from his home country to the US. For example lottery entrants from Africa have a greater chance of gaining a green card than entrants from South and Central America. At the moment more than half of the winning places are given to Africa.

As not everyone who is successful in the lottery actually chooses to emigrate to the United States, and some people are found to be unsuitable when screened by US authorities, there are actually more than 50,000 winners drawn every year. In the 2010 lottery there were actually more than 96,000 winners selected. These 96,000 now have the right to apply for one of the 50,000 visas.

To obtain an actual green card allowing residence in the US the lottery “winners” require an education level equivalent to a high school diploma, or two years work experience in a skilled job. There is also an interview.

There is no charge to enter the green card lottery. Entrants must simply complete and send the form which can be downloaded from the US State Department’s website during the registration period. Certain companies and websites do however charge a fee to complete the form on behalf of the applicant.

The State Department, and the Federal Trade Commission, have issued warnings about businesses which falsely claim they can increase an individual’s chances of winning, or falsely claim that they are associated with the United States government.

The US government has responded to criticisms made that individuals could not check the status of their application. Although the winners were notified by mail it was pointed out that immigrants were often applying from disordered, underdeveloped and politically unstable countries, which do not always have a reliable mail service. Since DV-2010 applicants can check their application status online, using a unique number which is issued when the application is submitted.