Since 1995, people hoping to move to the United States could opt to enter a lottery to receive an immigrant visa through the Diversity Visa program. Every year, 55,000 people are selected to receive immigrant visas by lottery. The list of countries whose citizens are eligible for the diversity visa lottery changes from year to year based on trends from the previous five years. The point of the lottery is to diversify the immigrant population in the United States by selecting applicants from countries with low immigration rates. Applicants from no single country may receive more than 7% of the visas distributed.
In order to qualify for the lottery, an individual must be a natural citizen of the country from which he or she is applying. The individual must also have the equivalent of a high school education and the equivalent of two years work experience in the last five years. Not every job qualifies. The Department of State is looking for individuals working jobs that require some sort of training or specialized knowledge. Engineers, doctors, and lawyers, teachers, electricians, plumbers, and carpenters are likely to qualify while taxi drivers, door men, janitors, and fast food workers are not.
The application itself must be completed electronically through the Department of State. There are no application fees. No paper entries or late entries will be considered. Applications are usually due every year in October. Only one submission can be made per person each year. If an individual is married, both spouses are permitted to submit entries. Once an individual qualifies and submits an application, the winners of the lottery are random and there is no way to increase the odds of being selected.
If an individual is selected, that person must undergo an interview to confirm his or her eligibility. This process may occur in the United States if the applicant is present, or at a US consulate or embassy. The applicant should bring proof that he or she meets all eligibility requirements and records relating to birth, marriage, any prior deportations, criminal records, and records of military service where applicable. If an applicant’s family situation has changed since the application, for example, if the applicant has gotten married or had a child, this must also be discussed in the interview. If the interview does not uncover any additional problems or concerns, the applicant will receive an immigrant visa.