The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program was established in 1990 to encourage immigration to the U.S. from a wider variety of countries. The number of diversity visas was originally limited to 55,000 per fiscal year but decreased to 50,000 per year starting in 2000.
The program is known as the “diversity lottery” because visa recipients are randomly selected from the pool of qualified entries. “Winning” this lottery does not guarantee entry into the U.S., but rather provides the individual an opportunity to apply for the Diversity Visa.
Nationals of low-admission countries, those with fewer than 50,000 natives admitted to the U.S. in the last five years, are eligible to enter the diversity lottery. Generally, natives of China, India, and Mexico are not eligible for the lottery.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) groups countries into six regions: Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, North America, and South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. USCIS then calculates each region’s annual diversity visa allotment using recent immigration statistics and an allocation formula.
To be eligible for a diversity visa, the applicant or the applicant’s spouse must be a native of one of the qualifying countries. The individual must also be admissible to the U.S. under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Additionally, the individual must have a high school education (or equivalent) or at least two years of recent qualifying work experience.
Eligible individuals have a short time frame to apply electronically each year.
Eligible Countries for the 2020 DV Lottery
The following countries can participate in the 2020 DV Lottery. The list is updated every year in September, so the countries listed below are subject to change.
- Hong Kong
- Myanmar (Burma)
- North Korea
- Saudi Arabia
- Sri Lanka
- United Arab Emirates
- Macau S.A.R.
*Persons born in the areas administered prior to June 1967 by Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt are chargeable, respectively, to Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. These persons are eligible for the lottery.
Hong Kong S.A.R., Macau S.A.R., and Taiwan qualify for the lottery despite China not qualifying.
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Côte d’Ivoire
- Equatorial Guinea
- The Gambia
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
The only country in Africa that does not qualify for the lottery is Nigeria.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
- Denmark (including overseas dependents and components)
- France (including overseas dependents and components)
- The Netherlands (including overseas dependents and components)
- Northern Ireland
- San Marino
- Vatican City
The United Kingdom does not qualify for the green card lottery. This includes Great Britain’s dependents and components: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, and Turks and Caicos. This excludes Northern Ireland, which qualifies and is listed among the qualifying countries.
Canada does not qualify for this year’s diversity lottery.
- Australia (including overseas dependents and components)
- Marshall Islands
- Federated States of Micronesia
- New Zealand (including overseas dependents and components)
- Papua New Guinea
- Solomon Islands
- Western Samoa
South America, Central America, and the Caribbean
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Costa Rica
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago