Each year the law provides for the issuance of 55,000 green cards on the basis of the submittal of an application to the Department of State. Approximately 7 to 10 million people apply for this green card lottery (also known as Diversity Visa Lottery) each year.
The Department of State only allows one application to be submitted per person. If selected, an applicant must be able to establish that he or she has a minimum of a high school education or has been employed in a professional capacity for two years.
In addition, the applicant must obtain an offer of employment from a United States employer that would be for a period of one year upon admission to the United States.
The spouse and single children under the age of 21 may accompany the chosen diversity applicant.
The current list of geographic regions, whose nationals may compete for these visas are:
- AFRICA: All countries on the continent of Africa and adjacent islands are eligible.
- ASIA: All countries are eligible except China, both mainland and Taiwan born, India, Philippines, South Korea, and Vietnam. Persons born in Hong Kong SAR are eligible.
- EUROPE: All countries are eligible except Great Britain (United Kingdom) and its dependent territories, and Poland; (Northern Ireland is eligible).
- NORTH AMERICA: The Bahamas is the only eligible country in the region this year; (Canada is not eligible for this year's lottery).
- OCEANIA: All countries in the region are eligible, including Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the countries and islands in the South Pacific.
- SOUTH AMERICA, CENTRAL AMERICA, AND THE CARIBBEAN: All countries in the region are eligible except Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Jamaica, and Mexico.
Who is not eligible?
Persons born in "high admission" countries are, in most instances, not eligible for the program. "High admission" countries are defined as those from which the United States has received more than 50,000 immigrants during the last five years in the immediate relative, family and employment preference categories.
Each year, USCIS adds the family and employment immigrant admission figures for the previous five years, to identify the countries that must be excluded from the annual Diversity Lottery. Since there is a separate determination made prior to each lottery entry period, the list of countries that do not qualify is subject to change each year.