US Green Card Lottery: How It Works and How to Apply

Every year, 50,000 Green Cards are made available to prospective immigrants to the United States through a policy called the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. People enter the drawing and winners get the chance to apply for a visa through US immigration services to be granted permanent residency and move to the United States.

The lottery program was established in 1990 to increase the overall diversity of immigrants to the United States. The list of countries eligible for the Diversity Visa program covers six geographic regions, with priority given to areas of the world with lower immigration rates. And keep in mind that if you win the visa lottery, your spouse and children can also come with you to live in the United States.

Green Card Lottery Program Requirements

There are several requirements to be qualify for the Green Card lottery. First, to participate you must be from an eligible country. The list of eligible countries includes those places where less than 55,000 people have immigrated to the U.S. in the past 5 years.

Among some of the countries that are not eligible to participate in the Diversity Visa Lottery Program are the following:

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Brazil
  • United Kingdom
  • China
  • India
  • South Korea

There are additional requirements that applicants must meet in order to qualify for a diversity visa. You must be a high school graduate or have two years of training and two years of work experience to be eligible.

Please note that you will have to fill out supplemental forms for your spouse and any children who are under 21 years old, if they plan on immigrating to the United States with you. You will also have to submit additional documentation to support your application, including photographs, certificates, and personal records. There is currently no fee to file a Diversity Visa Lottery application.

Diversity Visa Programm for family

Green Card Lottery Timeline

The Green Card Lottery has the same deadlines on its calendar. The application period opens in October and closes in November. Results are then available in early May and winners will be notified by the U.S. Department of State. Those who were not selected will not receive any kind of notification.

If you are selected as a winner of the Diversity Visa lottery, your journey doesn’t stop there. Note that Green Cards are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The U.S. Department of State selects more than 100,000 winners for only 55,000 actual Green Cards. This is because many who won are either not eligible or decide not to immigrate after all.

Winners of the Diversity Visa Lottery will then receive a rank number that will tell them when they need to submit their visa application. The lower the rank number, the shorter the wait will be. Once the applicant submits the application and requisite paperwork, the applicant must then sit for an interview with a USCIS officer. Once all of these requirements are met, someone is then authorized to immigrate to the United States, usually within 2-3 years of their initial application.

Remember that Green Cards must be renewed every 10 years in order for you to retain your legal immigration status. You can file an I-90 green card renewal form either online or you can complete a paper form.

After you’ve been living legally in the United States for a number of years, you can apply to become an American citizen. The process starts with filing form N-400, the citizenship application, with U.S. immigration services. When you receive your U.S. citizenship, you will be able to vote and forget about renewing your Green Card altogether. And that will be at the end of a life-changing selection process that could open the doors of the United States.

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