Last week, the State Department announced the winners from applicants of different countries around the world who will go on to receive a visa to travel to the United States and a clear path to receiving a green card and legal permanent residence in the country. The Diversity Visa Lottery, usually referred to as the DV lottery, or more simply green card lottery, is a program that has been in existence since 1990 and is basically a way for individuals and families who would otherwise not have any way to legally immigrate to the United States to get a green card.  

While it seems pretty straightforward, winning the green card lottery does not mean that you will have a straight shot at immigrating to the United States. There are technical steps that need to be taken and understood in order for this processing to go smoothly. This blog will be dedicated to better understanding the green card lottery and some of the confusion about this whole process.

1.     There are more entrants than green cards per fiscal year

The way the diversity visa lottery is structured sometimes leads applicants to believe that if they are picked at random (which is how the DOS decides country applicants), that they will immediately receive a green card and be admitted to the United States. This is not the case. If you are picked at random and receive a notice that you have won the diversity visa lottery, you need to act quickly. The process involves first directing yourself to the State Department’s visa bulletin and seeing if there is a “current” date listed under the respective region you live in.

In order to figure this out, applicants should go to the following link:, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page where diversity visa information and tables can be found and look at the respective column that fits their region. The State Department organizes this list via continent, so if you are from Romania, you simply need to look under the “Europe” category. Likewise if you are from Ethiopia, you need to look at the respective “Africa” column to see if you have a current date. If the date is current, act quickly and try to secure an appointment at your nearest U.S. consulate or embassy.

2.     You can only be issued a PR Card during the fiscal year you won lottery

Covid-19 has made the green card by DV lottery system more stressful. For example in fiscal year 2020, many applicants who “won” the green card lottery in their country were unable to do anything with their lottery pick because they couldn’t schedule a visa interview at any U.S. consulate, as most consulates around the world shut down from April to mid-August unless they were dealing with an emergency situation. This effectively meant that applicants who were supposed to go on and receive a green card were in fiscal year 2020 were stuck in their home country.

Today, U.S. consulates are beginning to open back up and run at normal capacity. If you have won the green card lottery, you need to be able to secure an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate to travel to the United States, that way you can have your green card mailed to you at your new U.S. address within the same fiscal year. If you are already based in the U.S. and win the green card lottery, you are in a better situation because it will take less time to process your green card than via the consular processing route (in most cases).

3.     Applicants still have to follow eligibility and admissibility requirements

Although the diversity visa lottery is unique, it still follows U.S immigration rules such as not having any criminal record when it comes time to check an applicant via their biometrics appointment, or not having a communicable disease that lead to the consulate rejecting your immigrant visa. These two major concerns—issues with the law, and health grounds of inadmissibility, and extremely important when it comes to the DV lottery, so applicants should be aware of this way in advance.

In addition, there are some other basic requirements that you need in order to pursue a green card in the U.S. via the DV lottery. These include:

  • High School degree or equivalent
  • Born in a country that sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the combined past 5 years
  • At least two years of work experience in a field/profession that requires at least two years of training, as determined by the DOL
Diversity Visa Lottery USCIS Green Card