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What is the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program? How does it work? Who can apply?

The Green Card Lottery is a program that awards up to 55,000 visas annually to individuals from underrepresented countries.

En el Congreso, se presentó una medida que, de ser aprobada, otorgaría la Green Card a 8 millones de indocumentados. Te explicamos en qué consiste.
Evgenia PARADZHANIANGetty Images

The Diversity Immigrant Visa, also known as the Green Card Lottery, is a program established by the United States government that provides a limited number of immigrant visas. It offers up to 55,000 visas per year to individuals from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.

The application process for the Diversity Visa takes place online through the Department of State’s website between October and November each year. The application is free of charge, and the selection process is based on a random lottery system. Once selected, applicants and their immediate family members may apply for a Green Card, which grants them lawful permanent residence in the United States.

It’s important to note that the Diversity Visa program is highly competitive with millions of applicants each year. Applicants must still undergo a rigorous screening process, including a background check, and meet all of the usual eligibility requirements for immigration to the United States.

Who can apply?

To be eligible for the Diversity Visa, applicants must be:

  • a native of a qualifying country,
  • have at least a high school education or its equivalent, or have two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience,
  • applicants must not have a criminal record, be inadmissible to the United States for health or other reasons, .

Those born in any territory that has sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the previous five years are not eligible to receive a diversity visa.

For the most recent lottery period the countries ineligible are:

  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China (mainland and Hong Kong)
  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam

This 50,000 limit is only for people who migrated under family and employment categories. Categories that are not classed under this bracket, such as refugees, means Ukrainians and Afghans can apply this year, despite having migration levels far higher than permitted.