Diversity Visa Lottery

The ‘Diversity Visa Lottery,’ officially known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, was designed to encourage immigration from countries with lower rates of immigration. Fifty-five thousand diversity immigrant visas are available every fiscal year. That number is reduced by up to 5,000 each year for grants under NACARA.


Every year the Attorney General determines the number of immigrants who received green cards from each country for the past five years. Each county that had more than 50,000 immigrants is designated as a “high-admission state.” Countries under the 50,000 threshold are designated as “low-admission states.” High admission states are ineligible to participate in the diversity visa lottery. Typically, Mexico, India, and China are ineligible to participate.

Eligible countries are divided up into six geographic regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceana, North America (Excluding Mexico), and South America-Mexico-Central America and the Caribbean (as one group). The Attorney General also evaluates which regions sent more than 1/6 of the total immigrants over the last five years and those regions are designated as “high-admission regions.”

The 50,000 available visas are then distributed, through a complex formula, to low-admission states, located in high admission and low admission regions. Additionally, no one country can receive more than 7% of available visas.

Eligibility Requirements

The Immigration and Nationality Act §203(c) sets forth the requirements for diversity visa applicants. An applicant must:

  • Have a high school education or equivalent; OR
  • Have at least two years of work experience in an occupation that requires at least two years of training, that occurred within the preceding five years;
  • Be admissible to the United States.

Additionally, the applicant or her spouse must be a native of a country eligible for the diversity visa lottery.

Distribution of Diversity Visas by Region

For Fiscal Year 2017 Diversity Visas were issued to the following regions:


Application Process

To participate in the Diversity Visa Lottery, applicants must apply online during the registration period. The registration period is typically a month-long, usually during October and November. The lottery is conducted in the Spring, and typically applicants can check the status of their application online at the beginning of May.

Note: the Department of State does not mail out notifications, an applicant MUST check the status of their application online.

If an applicant’s application was selected for the diversity visa lottery, they need to confirm that they meet the qualifications (through education or work experience). Only the principal applicant needs to meet the requirements, not their spouse or children.

  • DS-260: If you were selected for the diversity visa lottery, you would file for your immigrant visa abroad (or for adjustment of status if you are in the United States). You can check to see if it’s your turn to file your DS-260 by checking the Visa Bulletin. DV applicants go through rigorous background and security checks.
  • Visa Issuance: It is extremely important to file the DS-260 as soon as you are able. Consulates abroad and USCIS cannot issue any immigrant visas after September 30th, of any year.

If you or a family member has been selected for the Diversity Visa Lottery, please contact an immigration attorney who is trustworthy and knowledgeable! Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, are experienced in Diversity Visa cases abroad and within the United States. Please feel free to call us at 510-488-1020 to see how we can help!