Main article Immigration to the USA

Annually, the USA holds a Diversification Lottery, which lets about 50 thousand immigrants come to the country every year. Winning the lottery does not guarantee a green card. It gives you the right to apply for an immigrant visa, which the United States usually issues for family and labor immigration. With a visa, you can enter the United States and get a green card — the right to permanently reside and work in the United States.

The goal of the lottery is to diversify the composition of immigrants by providing a green card to residents of countries with low immigration amounts. Restrictions are introduced for the rest: for example, according to the rules of the last set, Mexicans, South Koreans and the British could not participate in the lottery[0].

From which country to apply

In the lottery application it is required to indicate:

  • Candidate’s country of birth, or
  • The country of birth of the candidate’s spouse, or
  • The country of birth of the candidate’s parents, if the candidate was born in a country different from the country of birth of the parents and where they no longer reside. In the last two cases, the statement must explain why the candidate’s country of birth is not indicated.

It must be noted that there are special stipulations for some regions. For example, residents of the southern Kuril Islands (considered to be Russia’s territory) should apply as the Japanese. The exception mostly refers to the territories which are subject to dispute between countries. Details are to be clarified in the corresponding US Embassy. At the time of application, you can be anywhere in the world, including the United States.

Getting a green card using a lottery

StageWhenWait periodCost
LotteryOctober – Novemberannualy7+ monthsFree
Immigrant VisaAfter winning the lotteryFrom 1 dayafter the interview. The periods are individual576 USD
Green CardAfter entering the United StatesUp to 120 days220 USDimmigration fee, payed after obtaining the visa in your own country

More details on the US Embassy website.

Step 1: Green Card Lottery

The lottery is simple: you need to go through free online registration on the only official website.

Registration of participants runs from October to November annually. For example, in 2018, recruitment 2020 (DV-2020) was conducted, and registration lasted from October 3 to November 6 and 2021 (DV-2021) intake was held in the fall of 2019.

Each application has an equal chance of winning — the computer randomly selects the lucky ones. The lottery ends by September of the year of the intake, when the quota is filled with winners and their family members declared for immigration. The selection process is completed by the end of September of the year of the draw. Winning the draw does not oblige you to anything, but gives you a chance to get an immigrant visa, and then a green card after entering the United States.

  • Filing more than 1 application form per person in the current intake;
  • Putting in fake information;
  • Incomplete information about the spouse and children;
  • Non-compliance with the requirements for the participant;
  • Loss of the identification number before receiving the results (the number must be saved until the end of the intake).

Requirements for obtaining a green card using the lottery;

  • Submit an application from a state that is eligible to participate in the competition in the current intake (the list appears before the registration opens in the fall);
  • Have a complete secondary educationequivalent to 12 year secondary education in the US or two years of work experience that meets a number of conditions;
  • There are no age restrictions for candidates.

It is not enough to have just two years of work experience in any field — it must be work experience that also required the candidate at least two years of training. Experience must be gained over the past five years. In addition, you need to evaluate your experience for compliance with the requirements in O*Net database.

How to evaluate your professional experience:

  • In the section Find Occupations click on Job Family;
  • Choose Job Family;
  • Choose a narrow specialization;
  • Evaluate the characteristics of Job Zone and SVP. They should be:
    • Job Zone: 4 or 5;
    • Specific Vocational Preparation: from 7.0.

Registration in the green card lottery

  • Filing an application DS-5501 online on the official website in the fall of each year and printing confirmation of completion with an identification number. It takes 60 minutes to fill out the form, it is impossible to postpone the completion of parts of the application for later — incomplete applications are deleted. If the system refuses to register the application, it can be downloaded again. However, if the application has been downloaded and notification of the completion of the application has arrived, downloading a new one is prohibited;
  • Waiting for the results of the lottery for at least 7 months (the publication starts in May);
  • Checking the results of the lottery online on the same site.

Participants in the green card lottery may encounter scammers who will try to get money from participants. For this reason, the lottery and the publication of its results are carried out only online and only on the official website — representatives of the lottery do not come into contact with the participants, apart from sending automatic notifications about the need to check the status of the application.

How to avoid becoming a victim of fraud:

  • To apply and verify the results, use only the official website;
  • Do not respond to electronic or paper letters, do not disclose your data, including information from the confirmation page;
  • Remember that participation in the lottery is free and does not involve fees;
  • To obtain reliable and up-to-date information, use US government sites with the .gov domain: and

The US State Department recommends filling out the application yourself because putting in any false information will lead to disqualification. However, it is not prohibited to use someone’s help when applying, if for any reason the candidate needs it. It should be noted that any statements by agencies and consultants about services to increase the chances of winning the lottery are a fraud. If the candidate used the help when filling out the application, he must be sure that his email address is entered in the application. In addition, the consultant must provide him with a unique entry confirmation number.

If the spouse meets the requirements for participation, he or she should also register in the lottery — this will increase the chances of winning and moving for the whole family. The participant must include spouse and all children in the application. Lottery winner will be able to take with him:

  • A spouse;
  • Unmarried children who are under 21 years old at the time of application.

If an adult child wins the lottery, he will not be able to take his parents with him, since only spouses and children under 21 can be indicated in the application.

You can participate in the lottery an unlimited number of times. Although the number of attempts does not affect the probability of winning the lottery in a particular year, everyone has a chance to try their luck again.

Step 2: Apply for the immigrant visa

The winner of the lottery receives the right to apply for an immigrant visa. The winner will need to enter the United States and get a green card. You must apply for a visa as soon as possible after winning the lottery, as the number of immigrant visas is limited. You can apply in the fiscal year corresponding to the year of intake. For example, a participant in the 2020 enrollment must have time to apply for a visa and receive it from October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020.

It is pointless to start the immigration process without sufficient financial resources: only visa fees and preparation of documents will require from 800 USD per person — an application is filled out for each family member. In this case, the candidate will need to prove that he also has money for travel and residence in the country, otherwise, he will be denied a visa — the state does not need dependents.

The short answer is no. As already mentioned, the United States allows only financially secure immigrants with the expectation that they will not live on welfare. The US does not help immigrants in settling in, they do not help them find work or accommodations. That is why the candidate is required to provide plenty of evidence that he will not become a public charge — this is directly spelled out in the rules of the lottery[1]. On the other hand, some immigrants use financial assistance programs, e.g., Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and others. However, the Donald Trump administration submitted a bill stating that temporary and permanent immigrants who use certain types and volumes of social security can be denied the extension of their immigration status or green card. This idea came about because immigrants on social security are becoming a burden on American taxpayers. For this reason, when immigrating to the United States, you should rely only on yourself and carefully monitor changes in the state law.

More information on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

In order to confirm the presence of finance, you can use:

  • Bank statements;
  • Evaluation of real estate and other property (it is not recommended to sell your property before obtaining a visa);
  • Confirmation of sponsorship from a friend / relative who is a US citizen / permanent resident (copy of the I-134 Affidavit of Support and a tax transcript from the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or a copy of tax returns for the last year);
  • An agreement with an employer in the USA.

The process of applying for an immigrant visa by a lottery participant

  • Fill out the DS-260 application (as soon as possible after winning the lottery);
  • Receive instructions from the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) on how to upload documents. Sending the required documents and transfers can only be done online (any physical correspondence addressed to the KCC will be destroyed);
  • Receive notice of the interview date;
  • Pay application review fee (330 USD);
  • Pass a medical examination;
  • Register for delivery of visa paperwork and receive IV Delivery Confirmation page;
  • Pass an interview (if necessary bring all originals and notarized translations of documents with you);
  • Wait for results (on the day of the interview or in some cases after additional administrative processing of up to 60 days[2]);
  • Obtain a passport with a visa and a sealed bag of documents (intended for border guards in the United States, it is forbidden to open it);
  • Pay the Immigrant fee (220 USD).

Documents for an immigrant visa required for the lottery participant:

  • International passport valid for at least 6 months at the time of the expected date of entry into the USA + a copy of the information page;
  • Passport;
  • Two photographs;
  • Printout of the confirmation page of the DS-260 application;
  • Certificate of education;
  • Certificate of work experience;
  • Candidate's birth certificate;
  • Marriage certificate;
  • Certificates of completion of previous marriages (divorce / death certificate, court decision);
  • Documents for adopted children (adoption certificate, guardian certificate, etc.);
  • Certified copies of court decisions and evidence from places of detention if the candidate was charged with any felony (even if he was found not guilty) with translations;
  • Certificates of military service if the candidate served in the armed forces (for example, military ID);
  • Recent information on the presence / absence of a criminal record and criminal records for all first and last names (including a maiden name), as well as dates of birth if they were officially changed, with information about each place where the applicant has lived or has been living (including studies) for more than 6 months, starting from the age of 16 (not needed for children under 16 years old);
  • Police certificates from home country and other countries where the candidate stayed for more than 12 months, or 6 months in the current country of residence;
  • The results of a medical examination and vaccination;
  • Evidence of funds;
  • IV Delivery Confirmation page;
  • Other documents depending on the country / individual case of the candidate and certified copies of some documents upon request.

These documents must be provided by each family member that intends to move with the candidate.

More information on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

It is necessary to make a certified translation into English:

  • All the extracts from court decisions;
  • All documents that are not in your native language.

A notarized translation must be signed by the translator and contain a statement proving the translator’s competence and the translation compliance with the original document. There are usually no special requirements for the submission of a translator's certificate and subsequent notarization. Check with your Embassy for specifications.

Interview is the climax in the process of obtaining a visa. The applicant brings all documents for an interview, including an invitation to an interview and confirmation of payment of all necessary fees. The interview should be attended by family members specified in the application. They can be interviewed separately if they plan to fly to the US later than the main candidate. The consul conducts a conversation with the candidates and at the end of the interview makes a decision on issuing a visa. Questions may relate to plans for settlement and adapting to the United States: future place of residence, work, study, as well as fluency in English and plans for the future. Additional administrative review of the application is sometimes required (usually up to 60 days). The consul will inform the candidate if it is necessary to add missing documents to the application.

Read more about the interview on the US Department of State website.

Candidates for immigrant visas are required to have a number of necessary vaccinations. Vaccination should be done as early as possible, as the process may take an indefinite time depending on the individual situation and personal vaccination calendar. A statement of previous preventive vaccinations, certified by a doctor, and with the seal of a medical institution, must be brought for a medical examination.

The list of vaccines for an immigrant visa

  • Hepatitis A;
  • Hepatitis B;
  • Flu;
  • Hemophilic fever type b (Hib);
  • Measles;
  • Meningococcal infection;
  • Mumps;
  • Pneumococcal vaccination;
  • Whooping cough;
  • Polio;
  • Rotavirus vaccination;
  • Rubella;
  • Diphtheria and tetanus;
  • Chickenpox.

When applying for a visa, you must provide photographs that meet strict special requirements. Requirements may change — before making a photograph, it is necessary to check the current information.

Requirements for photographs for a US visa

  • Size 5x5 cm;
  • Photo not older than 6 months;
  • Matte;
  • Color;
  • On a white background;
  • Neutral facial expression;
  • The image of the eyes at the level of 28–35 mm from the bottom of the photo;
  • Without glasses and hats;
  • No retouching.
>Образец фотографии на визу, размер в пикселях
Образец фотографии на визу, размер в пикселях

Reasons for visa denial

  • Insufficient funds for travel and residence in the USA;
  • An incomplete package of required documents was provided;
  • Providing fake documents for obtaining a visa (lifelong entry ban);
  • Illegal stay in the United States (entry ban from 3 to 10 years);
  • Criminal past related to drugs, human trafficking and other crimes (lifelong entry ban).

More details on the official website.

Step 3: enter the USA and receive your green card;

>US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Atlanta, Georgia
US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Atlanta, Georgia

Enter the country and receive a green card

  • Enter the USA with a package of documents for the border service and the results of photofluorography on hand;
  • Transfer the documents to the border service and cross the border as a permanent resident of the United States;
  • Obtaining a green card at the address of residence in the USA (waiting time is up to 120 days).

If the candidate is already in the United States, he or she can contact the USCIS for adjustment of status and receive a green card.

What rights does the green card give?

  • Permanent Residency in the USA;
  • The right to work;
  • The right to social security;
  • The right to obtain a US driver's license;
  • The right to travel outside the US for a short period of time;
  • Obtain citizenship after 5+ years.

It is not advisable to move outside the US for long periods of time. This can be considered as immigrant’s desire to live in another country. If the green card holder lives outside the US for more then a year, it becomes impossible to enter the country and a reentry permit should be made.

More detailed information can be found on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Last updated:
Brief Facts
Odds of winningof winning the lottery, but not to actually immigrate0.5%[0]
Annual quotaincluding family members of the participants±50 thousand[1]
Language examNo
Registration in the lotteryOctober – Novemberannualy
Results in7-24 months
Citizenship after5+ years
Green card cost
Participation in the lotteryFree
Immigrant visa330 USD
Immigration fee220 USD
Medical examination246 USD
Translations10 USD/copy
Flight tickets300 USD/person
Monthly living costs2,000 USD
Insurance206 USD[2]
Application Schedule
>Applications for Green Card lottery
Applications for Green Card lottery
* US State Department Data (2007–2018)[3]
What does a green card look like?
>US Green Card
US Green Card
Location on map