Winning the Green Card Lottery: 2019 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

By Kelly Y. Uwaine

The Department of State has released the instructions for the 2019 Diversity Visa (DV) program.  Online registration for the 2019 DV Program will open on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at 12:00 pm (EST) and will close on Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 12:00 pm (EST). There is no cost to register for the DV program.

The DV program makes 50,000 immigrant visas available through an annual lottery. Its purpose is to assure a diversified immigrant population by awarding visas to applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the US during the last five years. People from countries with high US immigration rates are not eligible. The program was created by the Immigration Act of 1990. (Some trivia: it was also called the “Schumer Program,” sponsored by Chuck Schumer.)

“Lottery winners” are determined through a randomized computer selection. DVs are distributed among six geo­graphic regions, and no single country may receive more than seven percent of the available DVs in any given year. This means that each country may receive up to 3,500 DVs each year. (Additional trivia: Bangladesh became ineligible in 2012-13 because over 50,000 Bangladeshis immigrated to the US during the previous five years. It was the biggest user of the DV program, averaging 3,000 DV winners a year. When it became ineligible, the odds of winning the lottery shot up for DV entrants from other countries.)

To be eligible to register for the DV program, you first must be born in a country where natives qualify to enter.  If you were in an ineligible country, you may still be eligible to enter if your spouse was born into an eligible country or if your parent was born in an eligible country and your parent was not a legal resident of the ineligible country you were born in.

For the 2019 DV program, the natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply as more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the US in the previous five years: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. Note that persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible to apply.

Winning the lottery does not guarantee anyone a green card. Each “winner” gets a number which secures his or her place on the winners’ list. Immigrant visas or green cards become available as one’s number approaches the top of the list. Winners must also prove they meet the education or work experience component. You must have at least a high school education or its equivalent or two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform.

People wishing to register can do so at Remember to list your spouse and all unmarried children under the age of 21 on the entry form. You will receive a confirmation number that you must safeguard. Starting on May 1, 2018, 2019 DV registrants can use that number to check their status on the DV program’s website at dvlottery.

For more, contact Kelly at