The green card lottery, also known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (or DV program), is a U.S. government lottery program for receiving a United States Permanent Resident Card, commonly called a green card. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program was established in 1990 to help enable people from a wider variety of countries to immigrate to the U.S. The ration of diversity visas was originally set at 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.
In contrast to several other U.S. immigration pathways, preference in the lottery is not given to applicants who have employers or family in the U.S. to sponsor them. Importantly, winning the lottery does not guarantee the applicant a green card. Rather, it simply provides the individual an opportunity to apply for the Diversity Visa—however, with an annual average of more than 13.3 million applicants for just 50,000 visas, winning the lottery is still a significant step in many immigrants' green-card journey.
What makes a person eligible for the green card lottery?
Nationals of countries from which fewer than 50,000 natives have immigrated to the U.S. in the last five years (classified as "low-admittance" countries) are eligible to enter the diversity lottery. Generally, natives of China, India, and Mexico are not eligible for the lottery, as the citizens of those countries have many avenues through which to immigrate—in fact, they are three of the four countries with the highest immigration to the U.S..
To be eligible for a diversity visa, the applicant or the applicant’s spouse must be a native of one of the qualifying countries of origin. 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 during which to apply electronically each year.
Eligible Countries for the 2023 DV Lottery
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) groups countries into six regions: Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, North America, and South America/Central America/Caribbean. USCIS then calculates each region’s annual diversity visa allotment using recent immigration statistics and an allocation formula. The list is updated every year in September for the year 15 months in the future. For example, the 2023 list was released in September of 2021. Because it is reevaluated each year, the list is subject to change, so a country that has available visas one year may not have the same number, or any at all, the next year. The following countries can participate in the 2023 DV Lottery:
Note: * indicates a country whose territories and dependent areas overseas are also eligible.
|Botswana||Gambia||São Tomé and Príncipe|
|Central African Republic||Lesotho||South Africa|
|Congo (Dem. Rep.)||Madagascar||Tanzania|
|Congo (Rep of)||Malawi||Togo|
Note: Although Macau (China SAR) *** is geographically located in Asia, it derives its eligibility from Portugal and so is considered a European country with regard to immigration eligibility.
Notes: Although Macau (China SAR) *** is geographically located in Asia, it derives its eligibility from Portugal and so is considered a European country with regard to immigration eligibility. Also, in light of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and Belarus in February 2022, the possibility exists that immigrations from Belarus ** and Russia ** could be suspended.
|Belarus **||Kosovo||San Marino|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Latvia||Slovakia|
|Czech Republic||Macau (China SAR) ***||Switzerland|
|Germany||North Macedonia **||Vatican City|
|Greece||Northern Ireland (UK)|
|Australia *||Nauru||Solomon Islands|
|Fiji||New Zealand *||Tonga|
|Marshall Islands||Papua New Guinea||Vanuatu|