What is the General Procedure?

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.

Once the instructions are published, the applicant submitsthe application as instructed to the Department of State electronically. Applications received that are qualified will be assigned a number in order. After all entriesare numbered, all numbers assigned will be randomly selected by a computer and ranked. Separate ranks are done for the various regions of the world as defined by the State Department. This is done so that applicants in one part of the world do not compete for visa slots with applicants in another part of the world. The 50,000 available visas are allotted to different regions pursuant to a system devised by the State Department.

Documentation of the applicant's eligibility (i.e., work experience or high school diploma and native country) does not have to be submitted with the application. The State Department ignores these requirements during the selection process and will only deal with them after an applicant is selected. Once an applicant is selected, he or she will have to produce documents of eligibility when the applicant applies for an immigrant visa through consular processing or adjustment of status (For more information on how to obtain a green card after the applicant is selected, please click here).

The applicant's unmarried alien children under 21 and spouse can be included in the application and can be given derivative permanent resident status if the applicant is selected and ultimately granted permanent resident status. Immigrant visas issued to these family members of the applicant are deducted from the cap of 50,000 immigrant visas distributed under the program. If the spouse of the applicant is eligible for entry into the program independent of the applicant, then the spouse can apply independently and also seek derivative status for the other applicant spouse and his or her unmarried children under 21. In essence, if both spouses in a family are eligible to enroll in the program, the family will have greater chances of being selected.

It is important to note that if an applicant sends more than one application for him or herself to increase his or her chances for selection, that applicant will automatically be disqualified for selection for that fiscal year.

Although there is no fee to submit the application, the State Department will charge an additional processing fee for the program if the applicant is selected and applies for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status. The processing fee is paid in addition to the standard fees that are paid for consular processing or adjustment of status. If selected, the applicant will receive notification instructions for the Diversity Visa lottery application process through the Department of State’s Diversity Lottery website, found here. The selected applicants will have to pay all related application and visa fees in person at their U.S. embassy or consulate. Diversity Visa Lottery applicants should never send payments for this visa program through the mail. Selectees of the Diversity Visa Lottery will receive separate instructions. For more information on how to obtain a green card after the applicant is selected based on the application, please click here.

(Updated 10/8/2012 by AG)

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