Congress instituted the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program in 1990, which allocates up to 55,000 visas annually for foreign applicants from countries with low immigration rates to the US. The entries are selected at random by a computerized system. Those selected receive Diversity Visas (DVs) which allow individuals and their immediate families (spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21) to immigrate to America.

The program is run by the U.S. Department of State, and applications should be submitted electronically on the Diversity Visa Lottery page of the State Department's website. The entry period is generally sometime between October and December of each year, and it is free to file an entry application. Winners will be notified by mail, and all applicants can check their entry status on the State Department Diversity Visa website.

Countries are broken up into 6 geographic categories. Each applicant within a geographic area has an equal chance of winning, but geographic regions with lower immigration rates to the US will be awarded more visas.

Diversity Visa Lottery Applicant Qualifications
  • Applicants must be citizens of a country which has sent fewer than 50,000 immigrants to the US over the past 5 years. A complete list of eligible countries can be found on each year's Diversity Visa Lottery Instructions.
  • Applicants must have either a high school education or its equivalent, defined as the successful completion of a 12-year course of elementary and secondary education; OR two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience to perform.

Note: Read the Lottery Instructions very carefully before applying as the requirements and application material details are both stringent and complex.

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