Green Card Lottery - Win a Green Card with The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

Vivien Thuri
06.18.21
6 minute read

Winning the lottery - it’s a dream of many people. And it’s no different when it comes to the green card lottery.

Perhaps you’re looking to enter - maybe you’ve already entered and are wondering how to check if you’ve won the green card lottery. Either way, stick around as the ins and outs of the lottery green card process are explained.

You’ll also be introduced to Wise, an international transfer service that could save you money in conversion fees when paying for your green card.

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Table of Contents 📝

What is the green card lottery?

The green card lottery is pretty much as it sounds.

The US green card lottery, known more formally as the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program, gives approximately 50,000 immigrants the chance to apply for a green card.

The ‘winners’ are chosen at random from countries with historically low US immigration rates.¹


Who’s eligible for the green card lottery?

Not just anyone can enter the green card lottery. You’ll need to meet some eligibility criteria. These are based around your:

  • Country of birth/citizenship
  • Education and/or work experience
  • Passport

Let’s take a look at these requirements in detail.

business-man-reading-documents-in-the-office

Green card lottery eligible countries

As previously mentioned, the US green card lottery is designed to promote applicants from countries with historically low rates of US immigration. So to make sure this happens, the US prohibits countries from entering the green card lottery if they’ve sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the US within the last 5 years.²

Countries are added and taken off the list every year, so you should check with the Department of State when applying to see which are green card lottery eligible countries.

Currently ineligible countries for the registration year of 2021
  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories
  • Vietnam²
  • If you want to find out if your country is eligible, then you can find the official list for DV-2021 here. Just remember that eligibility is not fixed, and an eligible country this year may be ineligible the next.

    If you're in the unlucky situation where your country is ineligible, then read on below to find out what you can do.


    Born in an ineligible country - you may still be able to apply

    If your country is ineligible during the year you want to apply, there may still be hope for you. The Department of State allows for two exceptions to this eligibility rule:

    If your spouse is from an eligible country, then you’re also eligible to apply as long as both of you are entering the green card lottery

    If at least one of your parents were born in an eligible country, then you’re also eligible to apply²

    And just remember - the Department of State emphasises that you shouldn’t apply if you don’t meet all of the eligibility criteria as any fees you pay will not be refunded.³


    Green card lottery requirements

    Once you’ve determined your country’s eligibility, you then need to make sure you meet the education/work experience requirements. You must either have:

    A high school education or equivalent formal course of study, comparable to the normal 12 year course of study in the US, or

    Two years of work experience in a job that, defined by the US Department of Labor, requires at least 2 years of training, or experience that is designated as Job Zone 4 or 5³

    The last eligibility requirement is to have a valid passport number. But there are three situations where you may be exempted from this requirement:

    You’re a stateless individual. You’ll need to prove that you don’t have any nationality

    You’re a national of a Communist country. You’ll need to provide evidence that you’re unable to get a passport under these circumstances

    Beneficiaries of individual waivers. If you’re unable to get a passport for another reason, you’ll need to explain and provide evidence as to why that is³

    📚 Check your eligibility
    If you’re unsure about your eligibility, it’s best to contact the US Department of Labor and check out their specific requirements to be sure.

    And that’s it. If you fit these eligibility criteria then congratulations - you can enter the US green card lottery!


    How to apply for the green card lottery

    There are approximately 50,000 visas available to green card lottery winners, and if you play your cards right, you might just be one of them. Every year the Department of State releases a set of instructions on how to enter the green card lottery. This also includes the dates in which you’re able to enter as well as the deadline.⁴

    You’ll be happy to know that there are no fees involved. In fact, the Department of State cautions you about other companies or individuals who offer to help you with the green card lottery process in exchange for money.⁴

    To enter the US green card lottery, you’ll need to:

    Check your eligibility (country, education/work experience, passport)

    Check when the registration period starts and ends

    Complete the Electronic Diversity Visa (E-DV) Entry Form (Form DS-5501)

    Record your confirmation number

    Log onto dvlottery.state.gov and select “Entrant Status Check” to check the status of your entry⁴ ²

    When you’re making your entry, you’ll also need to provide some supporting documents and details.

    Documents and details to provide
  • Full name
  • Gender
  • Birth date
  • City of birth
  • Country of birth
  • Current country of residence
  • Country of eligibility - usually it will be the same as your country of birth, but it may be different under special circumstances
  • Photograph of yourself and any others applying under your name (for example, your spouse and/or children) - must meet US Visa photo specifications
  • Your passport details
  • Email and mailing address
  • Highest level of education
  • Marital status and number of children²
  • As mentioned, when you submit the Electronic Diversity Visa (E-DV) Entry Form (Form DS-5501), you’ll receive a unique confirmation number. It’s very important to record this number as it will allow you to check the status of your application.²


    How to check if you won the green card lottery

    Like any lottery, you need to be “in it to win it”. And with the US green card lottery, this applies to your mindset too. The US Department of State will not notify you by email, mail or telephone if you win. It is completely up to you to check the status of your application. You do this by logging on to the official E-DV website and checking the “Entrant Status Check” section.⁵

    If you win the green card lottery then, firstly, congratulations! If you’re outside of the US, you’ll begin the process of Consular Processing. If you’re within the US at the time you win, then you’ll go through the Adjustment of Status process.

    Just remember that even if you win the green card lottery, you’re not guaranteed a green card - you’re simply given the opportunity to apply for one.⁵

    Need some support with your green card? Try Wise

    If you’re lucky enough to win, you're set on the road to get your green card.

    The green card process involves quite a few fees, which you need to pay in USD. If you have a non-US bank account, then you may end up spending quite a lot extra in conversion fees. This is where Wise can help you.

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    Sources:

    1. USCIS - Green Card Through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program
    2. Travel.state.gov - Instructions for the 2021 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (pdf.)
    3. Travel.state.gov - Confirm Your Qualifications
    4. Travel.state.gov - Diversity Visa Program: Submit an Entry
    5. Travel.state.gov - Diversity Visa Program: Selection of Applicants

    All sources checked 10 June 2021


    This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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