How to Apply for the Green Card Lottery

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Every year, 50,000 diversity visas are made available to foreign nationals who wish to immigrate to the United States. Because the supply of foreigners wishing to move to America far outweighs the number of visas available, Congress developed the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Applying to the Green Card Lottery is the first step for those wishing to be awarded a Diversity Visa.


  1. Determine if you are from a qualifying country and have the appropriate education and work experience. The U.S. Department of State only accepts applications for certain nationals. Each year the state department compiles a list of non-qualifying countries -- a country does not qualify if more than 50,000 immigrants in the last five years have immigrated to the United States. Applicants must have completed at least an education equivalent to high school and have worked in their field for two out of the previous five years.

  2. Enter the Green Card Lottery diversity visa application (Form DS 5501) within the required time frame. You can only apply for the Green Card Lottery online at This service is no longer offered through post and must be completed over the Internet. During your application you will be required to upload a passport photo and photos of all family if applicable. You will also be required to provide personal information. Each year the state department sets a specific time frame when applicants can apply to the lottery.

  3. Check the status of your application on Diversity Visa Lottery website. Once you enter the lottery a date will be given when you can check to see if you have been selected. Those selected will have to complete a immigrant visa application form, pay the required fees, submit required documents, take a medical exam and interview with a consular official.

Tips & Warnings

  • Spouses and dependents are eligible for immigrant visas if a diversity visa is won in the lottery.
  • The U.S. Department of State warns applicants to be wary of companies posing as government officials to get money and personal information from Diversity Visa applicants.




  • Photo Credit Hans Hansen/Lifesize/Getty Images

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