The Diversity Visa Program was established by Section 203(c) of the Immigration Act of 1990 to increase the diversity among immigrants to the United States. There have always been a handful of countries from which most immigrants come to the United States. Congress established the Diversity Visa program to increase the number of immigrants from smaller countries and countries that do not send many immigrants to the United States. The Department of State annually administers the statutorily created Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. For Fiscal Year 2023, up to 55,000 Diversity Visas (DVs) will be available.
There is no cost to register for the DV program. Be careful of scams. Some ways to know if it is a scam is that anyone claiming to collect a fee on the Department of State’s behalf is scamming aspiring immigrants. There is no fee. Second, the Department of State does not notify winners either by mail or by email; the only way to know if you have been selected is to check your application using Entrant Status Check.
Applicants who are selected in the program must meet simple but strict eligibility requirements to qualify for a DV. The Department of State determines selectees through a randomized computer drawing. The Department of State distributes diversity visas among six geographic regions, and no single country may receive more than seven percent of the available DVs in any one year.
The first requirement to qualify is that you must have been born in a country that sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the United States over the past 5 years. For DV-2023, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply, because more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous five years: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (including Hong Kong SAR), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Natives of Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible.
The second requirement is that you must have at least a high school degree, or at least two years of work experience within the past five years in a profession that requires at least two years of training, as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor.
If you are selected in the lottery, it is important to act fast, even though it could still be a year or more before you are able to come to the United States. There are two reasons to act immediately: First of all, your application must be processed and your visa must be issued by the end of the fiscal year for which you were selected. Second, there are more people selected for the Diversity Visa than there are visas available, and if you wait until the last minute there might not be any visas left.
When you are notified that you won the Diversity Visa, you will get a numerical rank, which will tell you when you can apply for your visa. Towards the end of July, you can check the State Department’s visa bulletin to see when you can submit your application. The first visas are available on October 1, the first day of the U.S. government’s fiscal year, and you can submit your application up to 90 days ahead of time.
Most people who are selected for the Diversity Visa are outside the United States and will apply for lawful permanent residency through the U.S. consulate in their home country. As soon as you see that there is a visa available, you should submit form DS-260 with the National Visa Center. Once your application is processed, it will be forwarded to the U.S. consulate, which will schedule a visa interview. If you meet all the requirements, you will be approved for your immigrant visa at the interview.
If you are in the United States on a temporary nonimmigrant status when you win the Diversity Visa lottery, you will apply for a green card through United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by filing Form I-485. You should submit your application as soon as a visa becomes available. A visa bulletin is published monthly and determines when a visa becomes available depending on your country of nationality.
Again, participating in the diversity lottery is free. Enroll at dvprogram.state.gov. Once you submit your application, it is essential to keep your confirmation number, because this is the only way to know if you have been selected.
Laura Lui is a partner at Fillmore Spencer and the leader of our Immigration practice. She has been helping her clients legally live and work in the United States for more than 20 years. With extensive litigation experience, Laura is ready to aggressively protect your rights. She will approach your case personally. Laura understands how your case affects you and your family. She will communicate clearly and effectively so you understand the legal process. Laura understands she is guiding you through a very difficult experience and she provides compassionate support, sound legal advice, and aggressive advocacy.