McEntee Law Group
Immigration Law Practice

Blog

The Diversity “Green Card” Lottery: If You’re Not In, You Can’t Win

Every year, roughly 1 million immigrants are awarded “green cards” that allow them to live and work in the U.S. as lawful permanent residents. There can be multiple paths to a green card, depending on your individual circumstances. Every year, for 50,000 people, roughly 5% of all green card recipients, that path is through a program called the “diversity lottery.”Since 1995, diversity visas (DVs) have facilitated the American Dream for over 1.1 million immigrants from around the globe. Since its inception, the diversity lottery program has also drawn undue criticism. The program’s opponents often falsely portray the program as an open door through which immigrants can enter the country without any screening or checks. Despite the intensive security and health screenings applicant’s go through, opponents make these arguments to advocate for the program’s cancellation.

The application deadline for the next diversity lottery (DV-2020) is November 6, 2018. Time is of the essence here, so let’s separate the facts from the fear-mongering. Here is what you need to know if you or a loved one is interested in obtaining a Diversity Visa/green card lottery.

What Is the Diversity Lottery?

Officially known as the “Diversity Immigrant Visa Program,” the diversity lottery was designed to increase immigration opportunities for individuals from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S. Every year, lottery winners (“selectees”) are drawn randomly from the pool of eligible applicants.

The program is administered by the U.S. Department of State, which sets regional quotas every year based on how many immigrants from a region have come to the U.S. in recent years. These quotas and the countries from which selectees are drawn change over time, and no single country can receive more than 7% of available Diversity Visas in any given year.  


Who Is Eligible to Enter Diversity Lottery 2020? 

The two main eligibility requirements for applying for a DV are:

  1. Eligible Country: Generally, you must be from a country whose natives are eligible for the DV-2020 lottery period. There are some exceptions for those who are from ineligible countries, but whose spouses or parents are from eligible countries.

    For DV-2020, immigrants from the following countries are ineligible based on recent immigration patterns:

o   Bangladesh o   Brazil

o   Canada o   China (mainland-born)

o   Colombia . o   Dominican Republic

o   El Salvador o   Haiti

o   India o   Jamaica

o   Mexico o   Nigeria

o   Pakistan o   Peru

o   Philippines o   South Korea

o   Vietnam

o   United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories

2. Education/Work Experience:
You must have either:

o   A high school education or its equivalent; OR

o   Two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring a minimum of two years of experience or training.


What Are the Chances of Obtaining a Diversity Visa?

In 2017, over 22.4 million people applied for the 50,000 visas available through the program. That made the odds of being selected roughly 1-in-448.

The odds of obtaining a green card through the diversity lottery are better than winning the actual lottery - Powerball - but the odds are still relatively slim. Nonetheless, one thing is abundantly clear – if you’re not in, you can’t win! Your country of origin can impact your odds, but demand often exceeds supply. That said, if you are qualified to enter, it is likely worth considering.

 

How to Apply for the Upcoming Diversity Lottery

 There is no cost to apply for a Diversity Visa. The application - Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form (E-DV Entry Form or DS-5501) – must be submitted online at dvlottery.state.gov. The Department of State does not accept incomplete applications, multiple applications, or applications by mail. Follow the instructions carefully. If you have questions, consider attending a diversity lottery workshop. They are offered in many major cities. Alternatively, consider speaking with an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that you are eligible, and that you submit a complete and accurate application. Finally, make sure to keep a note of your application number so you can check your application when the time comes.

The deadline to apply for DV-2020 lottery period is noon, Eastern Standard Time (11:00 a.m. Chicago time) on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.

Applicants will be able to check whether they were selected beginning on May 7, 2019, through the Entrant Status Check on the E-DV website.

 

If I am Selected in the Lottery, Will I Get a Green Card?

The Department of State selects more applicants for the lottery than there are green cards available so even after getting selected you still need to wait to make sure your number comes up. If you are selected, it’s vital that you talk to an experienced attorney as it can be time-sensitive and there are many steps involved.

The diversity program is often misunderstood because while there is a relatively low barrier for applying for the lottery, there are strict requirements for obtaining a green card through the lottery. Diversity lottery opponents have used this misconception to create fear and unease with the program, falsely claiming that there “is no vetting system” for immigrants who obtain Diversity Visas. That is patently false.

Selectees must undergo extensive and detailed background and security checks, interviews, and health screenings and pay a fee of $330 to be considered for a green card. After this intensive process, if a selectee is determined to be a security threat or otherwise ineligible, they will not obtain a green card.

 

We Can Help

Time is quickly running out to submit your green card lottery application. Please contact McEntee Law Group to schedule a flat-rate consultation to discuss your diversity lottery questions and assess any other potential options.