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US Green Card Lottery Guide

2025 Green Card Lottery Guide: Diversity Visa Program Explained

Stefano at Localyze

Stefano Mandola

Content Writer

Table of contents

The United States Diversity Immigrant Visa Program provides a fixed number of immigrant visas (green cards) to individuals born in countries with low immigration rates. Also known as the Green Card Lottery, the Diversity Visa Program, or the DV Program, it aims to diversify the immigrant population in the US by providing an opportunity for individuals born in countries with low levels of recent immigration to obtain immigrant visas.

Each year, the Green Card Lottery attracts millions of applicants. However, only 55,000 immigrant visas are awarded through each lottery program.

Are you thinking of applying yourself, or know someone who is? Or maybe you just want to learn how the Diversity Visa program works. Either way, this guide features everything you need to know about applying for the Green Card Lottery, avoiding mistakes, and overcoming some of the common challenges.

What is the Green Card Lottery?

The US Department of State administers the Diversity Immigrant Visa program. The program's primary goal is to increase the diversity of immigrants who receive a permanent resident card (a "Green Card"). Due to the lottery style of selection, it's commonly called the Green Card Lottery.

The Green Card Lottery serves as a method for immigrants who otherwise wouldn't have a path to a Green Card to receive permanent residency in the US. The Department of State thus only opens the lottery to those born in countries that sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the US in the past five years.

What are the eligibility requirements?

There are two main eligibility requirements for the Green Card Lottery:

First, applicants must have been born in an eligible country. The list of currently eligible countries can be found on the official Diversity Visa program website.

Second, applicants must have a minimum of a high school degree or two years of work experience in the past five years in a profession that requires a minimum of two years of training.

If an applicant wasn't born in an eligible country, there are still two possible ways to qualify:

  • If the applicant's spouse was born in an eligible country, they can apply with their spouse by selecting the spouse's birth country on the application.
  • If neither of the applicant's parents were legal residents of the applicant's country of birth, the applicant may select their mother or father's country of birth on the application.

How does the Green Card Lottery promote diversity?

The Green Card Lottery aims to promote diversity in the US by:

Choosing applicants from low-immigration countries

The Diversity Visa program targets applicants from countries that have been less represented among new green card recipients over the past five years. This makes sure that individuals from underrepresented backgrounds can contribute to American culture.

Random selection

In contrast to other immigration routes that focus on specific skills or family ties, the Green Card Lottery system is random. This avoids potential biases such as occupation, education, or family connections and gives everyone an opportunity to participate regardless of background.

Creating more opportunities

The US Diversity Visa offers legal immigration to individuals who otherwise would not be eligible on other grounds of limited resources, specific skills, or family connections. This enables individuals from a variety of backgrounds to unite and bring their unique contributions to the US.

How do I apply for the Green Card Lottery?

The Green Card Lottery application process is not as complicated as other visa programs. The most important thing to remember is the registration period, typically a one-month period held two calendar years before the lottery selection process.

For example, the application period for the 2025 Green Card Lottery was from noon Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on October 4, 2023, to noon EDT on November 7, 2023. All important dates can be found on the Department of State's Electronic Diversity Program (E-DV) website.

To apply, visit the US Department of State’s E-DV website during a designated application period. Be sure you’re visiting the official website of the US Department of State. There are many fraudulent websites imitating the Department of State’s website. The Department of State does not require any fee for submitting an entry into the lottery, so you should never be asked to pay such a fee (unless it is a legal fee for legal advice and/or assistance with the process).

Carefully read the instructions and start the application process, which will require you to  provide the following basic information:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Country of birth
  • Country of eligibility
  • Mailing address
  • Spouse and children's information (if applicable)
  • Highest level of education
  • Recent work experience

As you apply, keep these tips in mind:

  • For the "country of birth" field, list the country where you were born, regardless of your current place of residence. If the name of a country has changed since your birth, refer to it by its current name.
  • For the "country of eligibility" field, provide the country of your birth or, if applicable, the country of birth of your spouse or parents. The country where you reside now doesn't matter for this step.
  • Even if your spouse does not reside with you or doesn't intend to immigrate with you, you must list them.
  • Regardless of their age, you must list both your biological and adopted children on the list. Even if you are no longer married to their parents, you should also list all stepchildren under the age of 21.

You must also include recent photos — taken within the last six months — of you, your spouse, and your children. The Green Card photo requirements also apply to the Green Card Lottery.

Once these steps are complete, you can submit your application. You will then receive an email with a summary of your application and a confirmation number. Make sure to save the confirmation number, as you will need it later in the process.

How are winners selected for the Green Card Lottery?

Once the application period concludes, all entries are subject to a random, automated selection process. If you are selected, you are considered a "winner" of the Green Card Lottery. However, that doesn't mean you instantly receive a Green Card.

Instead, you and other winners of the Diversity Visa Lottery are notified by the Department of State via the E-DV site's status check system. You will then receive instructions on how to proceed.

What happens if you win?

As a lottery winner, you will first be provided instructions on how to apply for an immigrant visa at an embassy or consulate in your home country, or how to apply for a green card within the US (if you’re eligible to do so). Both of these processes require a substantial amount of information and documentation from you to demonstrate your eligibility. So, be sure to follow instructions closely. It’s also strongly recommended that you seek the advice and support of a qualified US immigration lawyer if you’re able to, though this isn’t strictly necessary.

How to increase your chances of being selected

Given that the Diversity Visa program is based on a random selection process, there is no way to ensure your selection. Remember that millions apply for each lottery, but only a maximum of 55,000 will win. That said, you can increase your chances of being selected by following all instructions, which ensures the successful submission of your entry.

You might consider consulting an immigration attorney that offers guidance and assistance on visas and immigration.

Verifying the credentials of any individual or organization offering to help is important. Avoid anyone who promotes supposed shortcuts or tricks, such as multiple entries. Since the Green Card Lottery is a randomized process, the best way to increase your chances of winning is to fill out the application accurately and honestly and to follow up as needed.

Green Card Lottery challenges and how to overcome them

Some common challenges applicants face in the Green Card Lottery process include:

Eligibility restrictions

You might be excluded if you are from a country with high immigration rates to the US. You also might not meet the minimum work and education requirements. However, don't give up hope. The list of eligible countries changes every year, and you might be eligible to apply under your spouse's country or the birth country of one of your parents. You can also work toward meeting the work and education requirements.

Scams and misinformation

Malicious actors create fraudulent websites that resemble the official E-DV website. If you fall for one of these scams, you put your personal information and finances at risk. Stay vigilant in your online activity, and ensure you only visit official websites. Other scam artists promote misinformation by claiming there are hacks and tricks to guarantee winning the lottery. Remember that something that sounds too good to be true is likely a scam. Don't respond to unsolicited emails or phone calls offering assistance with the lottery.

High competition

With millions of applicants and a random selection process, winning the Green Card Lottery is always challenging. It's easy to see this as a discouraging challenge. It helps to understand the high level of competition involved in the process and that there's no way to influence the outcome. All you can do is seek expert guidance, complete the application accurately and thoroughly, and hope for the best. If you win the Green Card Lottery, you will be satisfied knowing you did everything right.

Localyze offers helpful visa guidance

Localyze and our partner immigration law firm are here to help with all US visa programs. As a one-stop shop for global mobility, Localyze partners with experienced immigration counsel to help you stay up-to-date on the most recent rules and regulations around the Green Card Lottery and other visa programs. To learn more about how Localyze can help your business with visa needs, book a demo today.

The content of our website, specifically the articles discussing legal topics, is researched with the utmost care. However, the provider cannot assume any liability for the correctness, completeness, and topicality of the information provided. In particular, the information is of a general nature and does not contain legal advice in individual cases. For the solution of specific legal matters, please consult a lawyer, including contacting Localyze, to be connected to an experienced immigration lawyer to help with your employees' individual cases.

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