dv lottery

How To Apply For DV Lottery Green Card 2020

The 2019-2020 diversity visa lottery (also known as the green card lottery) is a popular way to become a U.S. permanent resident for those who have no other way to enter the United States. This post details how to apply for DV lottery and your odds of winning one of the 55,000 visas available.

They call it a lottery for a reason. Honestly, your chances of winning are very slim but millions of people continue to apply every year in the hopes that they will get the winning ticket (or visa).

There are restrictions based on the country of residence and other qualifications that we’ll go into more detail below.

Case Example:

Jam is from Ethiopia and she recently applied for the DV lottery in hopes of winning a U.S. green card. She submits the application for herself and includes everyone in her immediate family.

After months of waiting, she is selected as one of the winners. She is asked to submit supporting documents.

Who Is Eligible For The DV Lottery?

Okay, so you want to live in the U.S., but are you eligible to even enter the diversity visa lottery?

  • You must be a foreigner.
    • This one is common sense right? Of course, you must live outside the U.S. and not already a permanent resident or U.S. citizen.
  • You are from a country with a low U.S. immigration rate.
    • This requirement is used to promote immigration from countries who’s citizens are not well represented in the United States. So, for those of you living in Mexico, Philippine, India or China – you are out of luck!
    • It is determined by the country of your birth not citizenship or resident. For example, if you were born in India but your parents immigrated to Tahiti when you were two years old, you would be considered an Indian applicant no matter where you current reside.

Once you know that you are eligible, you can go ahead and apply for the DV green card lottery during the open period.

Countries That Are Excluded From DV Lottery

Below is a list of countries who’s natives are excluded from entering the DV lottery. If you were born in any of these countries, you will need to find another way to enter the U.S.

People from all other countries are eligible to submit their application for the DV lottery without worrying that they will automatically be denied.

Note: If you were born in one of the excluded countries below, you may still qualify based on the country of birth of your parents or spouse.

Case Example: Juliette was born in Canada (making her ineligible) but her husband was born in Spain. She would not be able to apply for the DV lottery based on her nationality, but she can claim her spouse’s country of birth (Spain) as her country of eligibility as long as she includes her spouse on the application.


Excluded Nationalities


Bangladesh Brazil Canada China (mainland only) Colombia
Dominican Republic El Salvador Haiti India Jamaica
Mexico Nigeria Pakistan Peru Philippines
South Korea United Kingdom
(except Northern Ireland)


Number Of Diversity Visas Available Every Year

Each year, USCIS makes 50,000 diversity visas available worldwide. This is not a lot of visas when you think about the millions of people who apply for all other visas to the U.S.

The DV lottery was created to diversify the immigration system in the United States. If you think about it, most people who immigrate to the U.S. are using family-based visas or employer sponsored visas.

Anyone who doesn’t have an American family member or can’t get a U.S. company to employee them will be out of luck in their pursuit of the American dream. That’s where the DV green card lottery comes to play.

Case Example:

Rona was born in Kenya and has dreamed of moving to the U.S. to work and support his family back home. He knows that he cannot get a work visa and previous visitor visa applications have been denied. His last hope is to win the DV lottery to get a green card and move to America.

There is no limit to how many DV lotteries you can submit your application to. Many people apply every single year hoping that their application will be selected.

I’ll admit that the odds of you wining the green card lottery is slim. There are millions of applications around the world and only 55,000 people will be selected. I don’t want to discourage you because it doesn’t cost you anything to apply except the time it takes to submit the application.

dv lottery visa resultsSubmitting Entry For Green Card Lottery

Step 1: You must be from an eligible country.

  • The first requirement is that your country of nationality (or your spouse’s country) must NOT be on the list of excluded countries. If you can meet this requirement, then you are eligible for the green card lottery.

Step 2: You must meet the education/work requirement.

  • You will need to have at least a high school education or its equivalent. This is defined as successfully completing 12-year course of formal elementary and secondary education; or
  • Two years of work experience within the past five years in a job that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform. The Department of State will use the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net Online database to determine qualifying work experience.

Step 3: Include a validated photo (optional).

  • USCIS will require a recent photo of you similar to a passport style photograph.

Step 4: Apply online during open registration.

  • Log on to dvlottery.state.gov during the registration period, then you will see the Welcome Page for AES.

diversity lottery application

DV Lottery Green Card Interview

At the end of your immigrant visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, the consular officer will inform you whether your visa application is approved or denied.

Visa approval – When approved, you will be informed how and when your passport and visa will be returned to you.

Visa denial – If denied, you will be informed why you are ineligible to receive a visa. There is additional information about visa denials at the bottom of this post.

Note: Some visa applications are denied because they require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a consular officer. Applicants are advised of this requirement when they apply. Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the visa interview. When administrative processing is required, the timing will vary based on individual circumstances of each case.

DV Lottery Approval Process

After you are notified that an interview has been scheduled for your DV visa at the , U.S. Embassy or Consulate, the consular officer will let you know whether your DV visa has been approved or denied.

  • Visa approval – If your DV visa is approved, the consular officer will let you know when your passport and visa will be returned to you. Congrats!
  • Visa denial – If your DV visa is denied, the consular officer will tell you why you are ineligible to receive a visa. I will discuss visa denials at the end of this post.

Note: Sometimes a visa will be denied due to administrative processing which just means they more time after the interview to review your eligibility. Most administrative processing is completed within 60 days of the visa interview. But how long it takes on your specific case can vary. Be sure to contact the Consulate or Embassy for regular updates on your case.

DV Lottery Visa Approval Notice

If your DV visa interview is successful, you will receive some information in the the mail from the Consulate.

  • Passport with Visa – Your diversity visa will be placed on a page in your passport. You should review the printed information right away to make sure there are no mistakes. If you find any spelling mistakes in your name, your should contact the embassy or consulate right away to get it corrected.
  • Sealed Immigrant Packet – You will also receive a sealed packet that contains documents that you’ll need to present to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a port-of-entry (airport or land crossing) once entering the United States. Do not open the sealed packet!
  • Travel Information – You’ll need to arrive and request admission into the United States no later than the visa expiration date printed on your visa. This just means you will need to use your DV visa before it expires. A diversity visa is usually valid for up to six months from the date of issuance unless your medical examination expires sooner, which can make your visa valid for less than six months.
  • USCIS Immigrant Fee – After receiving immigrant visa, you must pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee to USCIS. Only children who enter the United States under the Orphan or Hague adoption programs, Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants, returning residents (SB-1s), and those issued K visas are exempt from this fee.

Important Notice: USCIS will not issue a Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551 or Green Card) until you have paid the fee.

  • Vaccination Records – All children are required to have certain vaccinations before they can enroll in school in the United States. Your child should have complete vaccination records before immigrating to the United States. Learn about vaccination requirements by state on the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website under Vaccination Requirements.
  • X-rays – You must hand-carry your X-rays with you, not pack them in your luggage.

dv lottery chartEntering The US On DV Lottery Visa

Finally, the day has arrived that you get to enter the U.S. on your DV visa! How exciting!

The primary applicant will need to enter before any other family members or enter at the same time. So, for example, if you are the primary applicant your child cannot use their visa to enter before you do.

Once you get to the port of entry (usually an airport), you will need to provide your passport with the DV visa stamp inside and the sealed packet. This process requests that you and your family are given permission to enter the U.S. on valid visas.

Important Note: Remember, it’s ultimately up to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to allow you into the country. Even with a valid visa, it’s no guarantee that you will be allowed entry.

If CBP admits you into the U.S., you will enter as a Lawful Permanent Resident, also called a green card holder, and allowed to! work and live permanently in the United States!

Permanent Residents: Learn more about your status as a Lawful Permanent Resident. See Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants about living in the United States.

DV Lottery Visa Denied After Interview

Unfortunately, not everyone who attends the DV visa interview will be approved. If your interview didn’t go so well, below are some of your options to move forward.

  • Sometimes the consular officer does not have enough information to finalize your application, or they could be missing some supporting documentation. The consular officer will tell you if information or documents are missing and how to submit it.
  • Some applications may require additional administrative processing after the interview before the application review is complete. The consular officer will inform tell you if additional administrative processing is needed.
  • Not everyone who applies is qualified or eligible for a Diversity Visa to come to the United States. Under U.S. law, there are many reasons that could make an you ineligible to receive a visa.
  • In some cases, you may be able to apply for a waiver for the ineligibility. If you are able to apply for this waiver, the consular officer will advise you on the steps to take.

Final Thoughts On Green Card DV Lottery

If you’ve dreamed of moving to the United States to start your life, the diversity visa program may be your only option. For those of you who are citizens of countries where it’s hard to get a visitor or student visa, applying for the DV lottery green card could be a ticket to your American Dream.

Only 55,000 Diversity Visas are available worldwide and millions of applicants apply each year. The odds of approval are very low but you really don’t have much to lose. I always recommend applying every single year if you believe that you are eligible and will qualify for the visa.

The interview and medical process can be lengthy for the Diversity Visa but no more so than other types of immigrant visas. Once you are approved and have the visa stamped in your passport, you are ready to enter the United States at a port of entry.

After you are given permission to enter the U.S. by Customs and Border Protection, you will officially become a lawful permanent resident! Congrats! Your green card will arrive in the mail within 2-3 weeks.

You may now live and work in the United States and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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