How does the diversity lottery visa work?

On Behalf of | Oct 16, 2019 | US Immigration Law

Immigrants have come under fire under the current administration. The White House has sought to pass laws and change policies that directly hurt both documented and undocumented immigrants in our country – as well as asylees seeking refuge here.

There has also been considerable misrepresentation of the immigration process in recent years. In a previous post, we discussed some of the misconceptions surrounding legal immigration. The White House has made gross falsifications surrounding one path to legal immigration in particular: the diversity lottery visa.

What is the diversity lottery visa, and how does it work?

The opportunity

The diversity lottery visa, also known as the green card lottery visa, is a chance-based opportunity for some foreign nationals to get a green card – i.e., a permanent residency visa – in the U.S. The process works like any lottery: winning applications are selected at random. And only a small percentage of applications win – less than 1%.


The purpose of this visa is to increase representation from countries with low immigration to the United States. Therefore, not everyone can apply. Applicants must originate from a qualifying underrepresented country. Ineligible countries are those with high immigration rates, such as Canada, China and the United Kingdom. In addition to home country qualifications, applicants must also have at least one of the following:

  • A high school education or equivalent
  • Two years of work experience over the last five years in a job requiring at least two years of experience or training

Around 22 million people apply for this visa every year, and only around 50,000 of them are selected. If you’re selected, you’ll need to submit certain documentation and attend an interview at the U.S. embassy in your home country. You’ll also have to undergo a background check. Once you clear that, you’ll get your green card.

Diversity lottery visa winners represent a small percentage of immigrants allowed into the U.S. – and the chances of getting accepted are low. Nonetheless, if you are eligible for this visa, you have the right to apply each year.

Because the selection is random, there’s no way to determine if and when you’ll get accepted. If you’re looking to immigrate to the U.S. more urgently than that, then it’s worth talking to an immigration attorney about your other options.