Frequently Asked Questions: The Diversity VisaLottery

Q: What is the Diversity Visa Lottery Program?

A: Each year, 50,000 immigrant visas are made available through a lottery to alienswho come from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. None of these visas are available for alienswho come from countries that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the past five years. The State Department's National Visa Center holds the lottery every year and chooses winners randomly from all qualified entries. Anyone who is given a visa through the Diversity Visa Lottery Program will be authorized to live and work permanently in the United States. Selectees will also be allowed to bring theirspouses and any unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States.

Q: Who is Eligible to Enter the Diversity Visa Lottery?

A: You or your spouse must be a native of a country that is eligible to participate in the Diversity Visa Lottery. You may also be eligible to apply if your parent was born in a country that is eligible to participate. (The State Department will publish the names of countries that are eligible to participate before each year's lottery. The list for 2013 can be found here.)

You must have a high school diploma or itsequivalent, defined in the United States as successful completion of a 12-year course of elementary and secondary education; OR you must have two years of work experience within the last five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform.

Q: How much does the lottery cost?

A: There is no fee for entering the diversity visa lottery. If you are selected, you must pay a fee for an immigrant visa and a separate visa lottery surcharge.

Q: Will I receive any confirmation of my entry?

A: Yes. Anyone who applied to the Diversity Visa Lottery can check their status with the Department of State online. Due to the bars to entry, being selected as a winner in the diversity visa lottery does not automatically guarantee that you will be issued a visa, even if you are qualified. The number of entries selected is greater than the number of immigrant visas available, because not everyone selected will be qualified for the visa or will choose to complete the processing. Once all 50,000 visas have been issued, the diversity visa program for the year will end.

Q: How many times can I enter the lottery?

A: Only ONE entry form may be submitted by or for each applicant during the registration period. Submission of more than one entry will disqualify the person from the lottery for that year.

Q: How do I enter the diversity lottery?

A: The first step for qualified aliens to apply for an immigrant visa under the diversity program is to complete the State Department’s "application for registration." There is no fee to submit the application. Moreover, there is no formal form to enroll. The application consists of the electronic submission of the State Department’s Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form, DS 5501. The form requires the following:

  1. Full name of the applicant;

  2. The applicant's date of birth;

  3. The applicant’s city of birth;

  4. The applicant's place of birth;

  5. Country of chargeability for the Diversity Visa Program

  6. Marital status

  7. The names, dates, and places of birth of the alien's spouse or children, if any;

  8. The applicant’s current city of residence

  9. A current mailing address, phone number, and email address;

  10. The applicant’s highest level of education;

  11. Entry photographs in the proper format and resolution; and

  12. The applicant's native country if different from the country of birth;

After the application is prepared according to the specifications indicated above, the applicant must check with the State Department for publication of the explicit instructions on how to apply or file for the program. This information is usually published the August before the drawing of the current fiscal year. The instructions for the 2013 Diversity Visa Lottery Program can be found here.

Q: How and where do I send my entry?

A:The Department of State requires all Diversity Visa Lottery applicants to submit their information using Form DV 5501. The forms must be submitted electronically at during the yearly registration period. If you successfully submit your application, you will receive a confirmation number. Be sure to keep this confirmation number, as the Department of State will not provide you with a new one if it is lost. This confirmation number is used to check the status and outcome of your DV 5501 application.

Q: How are the winners chosen?

A: Registrants will be selected at random by computer from among all qualified entries. Those selected will be notified through the Department of State website and will be provided with further instructions.

Q: How is the term "native" defined?Are there any bases upon which persons who have not been born in a qualifying country may be eligible for registration?

A: "Native" ordinarily means someone born within a particular country, regardless of the individual's current country of residence or citizenship. "Native" also means someone entitled to be "charged" to a particular country under the provisions of Section 202(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Applicants for registration may, under Section 202(b), claim chargeability to the country of birth of a spouse; a minor dependent child can be charged to the country of birth of a parent; and, an applicant born in a country of which neither parent was a native or a resident at the time of his/her birth may be charged to the country of birth of either parent.

Q: Why do certain countries not qualify for the diversity program?

A: Diversity visas are intended to provide immigration opportunities for persons from countries other than the main source countries of immigration to the U.S. The law states that no diversity visas shall be provided for "high admission" countries, that is, countries from which during the previous five years there were more than 50,000 immigrants in the Family-Sponsored and Employment-Based visa categories. Each year, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) adds the family and employment immigrant admission figures for the previous five years, to identify the countries which must be excluded from the annual diversity lottery. Because there is a separate determination made prior to each lottery application period, the list of countries which do not qualify is subject to change from one year to the next.

Q: May persons who are in the U.S. apply for registration?

A: Yes, an applicant may be in the U.S. or in another country.

Q: May a husband and a wife each submit a separate application?

A: Yes, if otherwise qualified, a husband and a wife may each submit one application for registration; if either is registered, the other would be entitled to derivative status. Note: They may not sign for each other, i.e. the husband must sign his application and the wife must sign hers.

Q: Is there a minimum age for applicants?

A: There is NO minimum age for submission of an application for registration, but the requirement of a high school education or work experience for each principal applicant at the time of visa issuance will effectively disqualify most persons who are under 18 years of age.

Q: Are applicants especially entitled to apply for a waiver of any of the grounds of visa ineligibility?

A: No. Applicants are subject to all grounds of ineligibility specified in the Immigration and Nationality Act and there are no special provisions for the waiver of any ground of visa ineligibility other than those ordinarily provided in the Act.

Q: May persons who are already registered for an immigrant visa in another category apply for the lottery?

A: Yes, such persons may seek diversity visa status through this registration as well.

(Updated 10/8/2012 by AG)

For more information on the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, please click on the following links: