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Diversity Visa Lottery FAQs

Online registration for the DV 2017 Program begins on Thursday, October 1, 2015 at 12:00 noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4), and concludes on Tuesday, November 3, 2015 at 12:00 noon, Eastern Standard Time (EST) (GMT-4).

Applications must be submitted online at www.dvlottery.state.gov. English instructions for the 2017 lottery are here. There are several translations available here.

You should not apply if:

  • You are here out of status (illegally) unless you had some other legal permanent residence visa petition (family or employment based) filed before April 30, 2001.

If you have further questions relating to the lottery please contact us and a member of our legal team will get back to you.

What is the Diversity Visa Lottery Program?

The Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Program makes 50,000 legal permanent resident (“green card”) visas available each year to nationals of countries which the U.S. considers to be under-represented in U.S. immigration. Anyone who is not from an excluded country can apply, whether they are currently residing outside the U.S. or inside the U.S. though some restrictions apply, so please read the FAQ thoroughly.

What countries are excluded from this year’s DV lottery?

For DV-2017, 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 (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible.

If you are a “native” of any of these countries, you cannot apply for the diversity visa lottery. Generally, a person is considered a “native” of the country in which he or she was born. There are some exceptions to this rule, so if you are not certain if you qualify, you should contact an attorney.

What are the requirements to qualify?

To qualify, an applicant must come from an eligible country, have either (1) a high school diploma, or (2) two years of work experience within the last five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training. The applicant must also be otherwise admissible to the U.S.

I am a gay man and I am married to my husband in a country which has marriage equality, can I include him on my application?

Yes, with the end of DOMA, same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), along with their minor children, are now eligible for the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex spouses. Diversity Visa applicants may include same-sex spouses in their initial entries or add spouses acquired after their initial registration.

Where can I get more information?

More information is available at the Department of State website.

Can I apply even if I’m in the U.S. without legal status (“undocumented”)?

Under current law, a person who is in the U.S. without legal status who wins the DV lottery will not be permitted to apply for their residence from within the U.S. (“adjust status”) unless they had some other legal permanent residence visa petition (family or employment based) filed before April 30, 2001. The DV lottery program is not an amnesty program. If you are undocumented and you receive a notice from DOS that you have won the DV lottery, the notice will instruct you to return to your country for processing. If you follow these instructions and leave the U.S., you will almost certainly not be allowed to return to the U.S. Under current immigration law, anyone who has been in the U.S. without legal status for more than 180 days will be prohibited from returning to the U.S. for three years if he or she leaves. Anyone who has been in the U.S. without legal status for more than one year will be prohibited from returning for ten years if he or she leaves.

So, if I’m in the U.S. and undocumented should I apply?

Probably not. There is a much greater risk for undocumented people to apply now that information is gathered electronically than there was in the past when the lottery was done through paper submissions. The Department of State has said that they will use this information as part of its fight against terrorism, though it’s not clear whether the information will be used against undocumented immigrants.

While there is always hope that the law will change and people without lawful status will be permitted to adjust status from within the U.S., the risk of the information being used against an undocumented applicant seems greater than the likelihood that a successful undocumented immigrant could apply to adjust their status to legal permanent resident. If you are undocumented in the U.S. and thinking about applying for the DV lottery, you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney first.

I’m HIV positive. Can I apply?

Yes. Being HIV-positive is no longer a ground of inadmissibility.

How will I know if I won?

A government computer will select at random individuals from among all qualified entries. Starting on May 3, 2016, you will be able to check the status of your entry by going to www.dvlottery.state.gov, clicking on Entrant Status Check and entering the confirmation number you were given when you applied. This will be the ONLY way to know if you were selected, so it is important that you keep a record of your confirmation number. If you were selected, Entrant Status Check will provide you with further instructions, including all required fees. Please note that DOS will NOT be mailing out notification letters and will NOT notify winners by e-mail. Those NOT selected will be notified of their non-selection through Entrant Status Check.

How do I apply?

Again this year The Department of State will only accept applications that are electronically filed at http://www.dvlottery.state.gov along with digital photographs. Applicants are strongly encouraged not to wait until the last week of the registration period to enter.

How much does the application cost?

There is no fee at the time the electronic application is filled out. Please note that the U.S. Government employs no outside consultants or private services to operate the DV program.

When is the registration period?

Entries for the DV-2017 DV program must be submitted electronically at www.dvlottery.state.gov between 12:00 PM EDT on October 1, 2015, and 12:00 PM EDT on  November 3, 2015.

Can I submit more than one application?

Anyone who submits more than one application will be disqualified automatically.

Should I hire a representative, pay a fee or use an online service to file for the DV lottery?

Probably not. Most websites or services that offer to help applicants fill out their DV lottery application are not reputable and are not necessary. The online DV lottery application is very simple, and requires no fee. However, there are some reputable non-profit organizations who assist people who would not otherwise have access to computers to file their applications. These services should be free or very low cost.

Visit the Department of State website for the instructions.