Green Card allows its holder to live and work in the United States for an unlimited time. There are several ways to get it, and they all vary in complexity and time consumption. One of the most interesting ways is through the lottery held between millions of foreigners. In this article, we will tell you the most important things about the Green Card and how tens of thousands of people win it in the lottery every year.

Advantages of obtaining a Green Card through the lottery
  • Free participation;
  • The right to transport a spouse and children;
  • Low requirements: having secondary education and living in countries with low rate of immigration to the United States.
Disadvantages of obtaining a Green Card through the lottery
  • Minor errors in the application lead to disqualification;
  • Winning the lottery does not guarantee immigration — for this, you need to go through a series of committees and interviews, and confirm financial solvency;
  • High fees at every stage of registering immigration documents for winners;
  • Lack of government assistance for relocation, adaptation, and job search;
  • Low probability of winning — about one percent.

What is a Green Card

The owner of a Green Card is considered a permanent resident of the United States — they have the right to work, study and use a limited set of services from the government. In addition, all cardholders can receive a driver's license, own property in the country, get discounts on tuition and borrow loans on preferential terms. After five years of living in the country, a permanent resident can apply for US citizenship, and after ten — for retirement benefits.

How a Green Card differs from citizenship

Despite the fact that the cardholder lives in the country without time limits, the list of their social benefits is limited. They remain a citizen of their home country, cannot take part in referendums, elections, or work in government services. In addition, there are restrictions on entry for relatives, while family members of a US citizen receive a visa under simplified conditions.

It is more difficult to obtain citizenship than a Green Card — a candidate takes an exam on knowledge of history and culture, proves their high moral qualities, and takes an oath. The Immigration Service conducts an interview and tests candidates for basic English reading, writing, and speaking skills. But the efforts are worth it — the citizen gets the right to vote, travel without a visa to most countries of the world, and apply for employment in federal agencies. Moreover, students have access to all state scholarships and can leave the country without fear of being deported upon returning.

DocumentTraveling in the USATime of validityMedical assistanceObtaining citizenshipThe right to voteWork permitAverage tuition fees[2]
VisaFreeLimited---Limited43,721 USD
Green cardFreeUnlimitedAfter 5 yearsAfter 5 yearsLimitedYes20,471 USD
CitizenshipFreeUnlimitedYes-YesYes20,471 USD

How to get a Green Card

You can get a Green Card in different ways. Below are the main ones.

  • Family reunification. For close relatives of a US citizen and their family members — siblings and children;
  • Employment. After an American employer officially confirms that they are ready to hire you, you receive a Green Card. The important conditions are a higher education degree and relevant work experience;
  • Programs for talented people. This method is suitable for winners of international competitions, scientists who have made discoveries, recognized artists, and others. To receive a Green Card, you must confirm that you intend to continue your professional activities in the United States;
  • Investment. Five years after investing at least 900,000 USD in a company in the United States, you get the right to apply for citizenship. Funds must be obtained legally, and the company has to employ at least ten people;
  • Winning the diversification lottery. It has been held since 1995 by the US Department of State. To participate, a candidate’s portfolio must match several simple criteria. More about them in the next section.

Other methods of immigration

Green Card lottery

US government allocates 55,000 Green Cards annually to diversify the nation's ethnic composition. The Diversification Lottery is meant for the residents of countries with low rates of immigration to America. The US Department of State deliberately distributes a different number of free Green Cards between countries. For example, the maximum possible number of winners from Latvia is 64, and from Russia — 2290. Each application has an equal chance of winning — the computer selects the lucky ones at random. Winning does not oblige you to do anything, but it lets you apply for an immigrant visa, and then for a Green Card after entering the United States.

Who can participate in the Green Card lottery

To participate in the lottery, you must fulfill several simple conditions:

  • Live in a state that is allowed to participate in the lottery. The list is updated annually. Usually, residents of Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, and India do not participate in the lottery. When filling out the application, you may encounter some nuances. For example, Crimea belongs to the consular district of the US Embassy in Kyiv, and residents of the city apply for an immigration visa in Ukraine, despite being Russian citizens. Similar specificities may apply to other regions of the world. Therefore, check the information in advance;
  • Complete secondary education or have two years of work experience that meets a number of conditions. It is not enough just to find employment — you must work in your specialty and have at least two years of professional education. Use the site O*NET to see if you qualify for this criterion;
  • Obtain a foreign passport. If the application form is issued for the whole family, then at least the main applicant must have a passport.
How to evaluate the experience of working on the O*NET site
  • Go to the appropriate section;
  • Choose your specialization;
  • View specifications in Job Zone and SVP:
    • Job Zone assesses how long it takes to master a profession. The minimum score is 1 (no need to study), the maximum is 5 (a serious level of education is required);
    • SVP — Specific Vocational Preparation. The term applies to those who do not have secondary education. With SVPs, you prove that you have learned the necessary skills in practice. If over the last five years you have worked for two years in positions from 7.0 on SVP, then you can participate in the lottery.
  • Consider the minimum requirements:
    • Job Zone: 4 or 5;
    • Specific Vocational Preparation: from 7.0.
Which countries cannot participate in the lottery

In 2021, residents of Nigeria, Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, South Korea, Philippines, Vietnam, Great Britain (including Kingdom Islands), Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica, and Colombia are not allowed to participate[3].
But there are also exceptions. For example, a candidate from a country that is not included in the competition can still participate if their spouse is from a permitted country.

Lottery winners and entrants are not required to prove their level of English. Even those who do not know a word in a foreign language can receive a Green Card.

How much does it cost to participate in the Green Card lottery

An application for participation is free. But it is pointless to start the immigration process without sufficient financial resources. The winners pay visa fees and otherwise prepare the documents — only these procedures cost about 1,000 USD per person. Also, a candidate for a Green Card needs to prove the financial solvency to fly to and live in the country.

PhaseApplication periodProcessingCosts
LotteryOctober-November7 monthsFree
Immigrant visaAfter winning the lotteryFrom 1 day776 USD
Green CardAfter entering the USAUp to 120 days220 USD

How to increase the chances of winning the Green Card lottery

Every year, about five million people participate in the lottery, and only 55 thousand win. This means that the chance of winning is approximately 1.1%. But it is worth remembering that the department issues a different number of cards to countries. Therefore, residents of one state have a slightly greater chance than others.

CountryParticipantsQuotaChance to win
Sierra Leone80706520650.26%

If you have an official spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21, you can increase your chances of winning the lottery by registering them in it as well. They automatically receive a Green Card along with the winner.

Applications from a married couple are considered separately, so the probability of getting on the list of winners is doubled. If you lose, and your spouse wins, then you can still immigrate to the States together. But if an adult child wins the lottery, they cannot take their parents along.

You can enter the lottery an unlimited number of times. Although the amount of attempts does not affect the likelihood of winning the lottery the next year, everyone has a chance to try their luck again.

Addressing agencies and consultants to improve the chances of winning is regarded as fraud. At the same time, the Department of State does not prohibit using their services if you just need help filling out an application.
The future of the Green Card lottery

Immediately after coming to power, Joe Biden carried out reforms to increase the number of Green Cards — annually, 35% more migrants will come to the country. This also applies to the lottery, which was not halted even during the pandemic. According to the president's plans, instead of the usual 55 thousand, the government will distribute 80 thousand Green Cards.

Lottery participants' errors

  • Getting scammed. Participants in the Green Card lottery might encounter scammers. For this reason, the lottery drawing and publication of its results are carried out only online and only on the official website. Lottery representatives do not contact the participants, apart from sending automatic notifications about the need to check the status of the application.

    Below we attach tips on how not to become a victim of scammers:

    • To submit an application and check the results, use only the official website —;
    • Do not reply to emails or paper letters, do not disclose your details, including information from the confirmation page;
    • Remember that participation in the lottery is free and does not involve any fees;
    • For information, use the US government websites within the .gov domain:,, and
    • Violation of the application form. Even minor violations of the requirements lead to disqualification. For example, an incorrect format of the photo: a non-monocolored background, poor quality, incorrect head position, and the presence of shadows. You can check if yours meets the requirements on this site.
Examples of correct and incorrect photos in the application
The head must be in the center
The head must be in the center

Glasses must be taken off
Glasses must be taken off

The background must be neutral
The background must be neutral

Source: The American Dream

Other possible violations:

  • Filing more than one application in the same year. Even if you find a typo in the first form, do not try to submit the second — you will be automatically disqualified. If you win, you will be able to explain the error during the interview;
  • Stating incorrect information. At the first stage, the authenticity of the information is not verified — this happens immediately after the victory. If you have changed two letters in the first name, last name, date of birth, or made minor typos in other places, this will not be a problem. But bigger mistakes will get you disqualified;
  • Incomplete information about the spouse and children. If you entered inaccurate information about family members, you will most likely be denied a visa. Errors include both withholding information and listing non-relatives. Be especially careful with your marriage documents — only the official prenups or divorce papers are valid, not your plans.

How to get a Green Card through the lottery

In this section, we will describe the basic steps: from submitting an application to obtaining a Green Card.

Registration for the Green Card lottery

Taking part in the lottery is simple: complete a free online registration on the only official website. You have 60 minutes to fill out the form. If the system refuses to accept the application, try downloading it again. When registration is complete, the candidate is formally notified of participation. You cannot apply again, or you will be disqualified.

Do not apply through other platforms. You run the risk of facing scammers who steal your data and money.

When to apply

Participants apply in the fall of each year. The process of determining the winners takes from seven months, and receiving the card — up to several years. The results are published on the same site. Until October 15, 2021, you can apply for DV-2023. This means that if you register this year and win, you will receive permanent resident status in 2023.

Applying for a US immigrant visa

So, you won the lottery. What to do after winning?

  1. Send an application for a visa. The lottery winner is eligible for an immigration visa. You need it to enter the United States and get a Green Card. Application Form DS-260 is necessary to be submitted as soon as possible after winning, as the number of entry permits is limited. Just for the consideration of your application, you will have to pay 330 USD. The visa itself is received within a year after the victory. After going through all the bureaucratic procedures, you must pay an immigration fee of 220 USD.
  2. Undergo a medical examination at a clinic accredited by the US Embassy. The appointment is made 2 weeks in advance. Applicants for immigrant visas are required to complete a number of vaccinations. Vaccination should be done as early as possible, since the process may be delayed depending on the individual situation.
List of vaccines for immigrant visa
  • Hepatitis A;
  • Hepatitis B;
  • Flu;
  • Hemophilic fever type b (Hib);
  • Measles;
  • Meningococcal infection;
  • Piggy;
  • Pneumococcal vaccination;
  • Whooping cough;
  • Polio;
  • Rotavirus vaccination;
  • Rubella;
  • Diphtheria and tetanus;
  • Chickenpox.
  1. Confirm financial solvency. The USA admits only financially secure immigrants with the expectation that they will not burden the state. For this reason, when moving, you should rely only on yourself and closely monitor changes in legislation. America does not help immigrants with accommodation, job search, and getting settled. That is why the candidate is required to confirm as firmly as possible that they will not become a loafer. On the other hand, some immigrants take advantage of social support programs: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Security Income programs.
Proof of funds

Your income must be at least 13,750 USD/year. You can confirm the availability of finances using:

  • Bank statements;
  • Deeds for movable and immovable property (it is not recommended to sell property before obtaining a visa, however);
  • Confirmation of sponsorship from a friend/relative who is a US citizen/permanent resident;
  • Contracts with an employer in the United States.

More details

Green Card documents

All applicants for a Green Card must provide the following documents:

  • Foreign passport, valid for at least 6 months by the time of the expected date of entry into the USA;
  • General civil passport;
  • Documents of education (certificate, diploma);
  • Work experience certificate (work record book);
  • Marriage certificate;
  • Military service certificates, if the candidate has served (for example, military ID);
  • Relevant certificate of criminal record;
  • Medical examination results, vaccination certificate;
  • Confirmation of financial solvency.
Full list of documents
  • Candidate's birth certificate;
  • Two photographs in the established format;
  • A printed confirmation page for completing the DS-260 form;
  • Certificates of completion of previous marriages (divorce/death certificates, court decisions);
  • Documents for adopted children (certificates of adoption, guardian's certificate, and others);
  • Document confirming the submission of visa documents (IV Delivery Confirmation page);
  • Certified copies of court decisions and testimonies from places of detention with translations, if the candidate had been charged with any crime (even if they were acquitted later);
  • Other documents depending on the country/individual case of the candidate and certified copies of some documents on demand.

U.S. Embassy interview

The interview is the last step in the immigration visa process. You bring all documents, including an invitation to interview and proof of payment of all required fees. The family members listed on your application must be present for the interview. They can complete this stage separately if they plan to fly to the United States later than you.

We strongly discourage coming late — it is better to arrive 15-20 minutes in advance. Also, check the list of items you shouldn't take with you. It includes mobile phones, cameras, travel bags, food, and a few other things. The consul conducts a conversation with all candidates and at the end makes a decision on issuing a visa. Get ready to spend two to three hours at the embassy. Answer questions clearly and exclude unnecessary details. They may relate to your arrangement and adaptation in the United States: your future place of residence, work, study, and plans for the future. Sometimes an additional administrative review of the application is required (usually takes up to 60 days). The consul will inform you if you need to add missing documents to the application.

Possible reasons for refusing a US visa
  • Insufficient funds for travel and accommodation in the United States;
  • Incomplete package of documents;
  • Forged documents for obtaining a visa (in this case, you will get a lifetime entry ban);
  • Illegal stay in the United States (travel ban from 3 to 10 years);
  • Criminal history related to drugs, human trafficking, and other crimes (lifetime travel ban).

Responsibilities of the Green Card holder

  • Pay taxes on time. For tax evasion, you lose your Green Card.
  • Do military service. All men from 18 to 26 years old are registered with the military.
  • Stay in the United States for most of the year. You can travel abroad, but such trips should not be longer than a year. Otherwise, immigration officials will decide that you do not need a Green Card. Then you will have to prove your connection with America in court. The deprivation of the card can be avoided if in the States you have real estate, work, and family.
  • Notify about the change of address. Within ten days after moving, you must notify the Immigration Service about this.
  • Comply with the laws of the United States. After committing a crime, a person is punished and then deported to their homeland. A permanent resident is also relieved of the Green Card if they falsify information to obtain social benefits. For example, pretend to be a US citizen or enter into several marriages at the same time.
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