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History of the Lottery

What exactly is the Green Card?

The Green Card is an unlimited residence permit to work and live in the United States of America. Green Card holders can emigrate to the USA and stay there for as long as they like. This unlimited visa was first introduced in the 1940s as an “Alien Registration Receipt Card”. The first of these credit card sized IDs had green writing and a greenish photo. The expression “Green Card” was thus coined and it quickly became the common name. In the meanwhile, the Green Card has changed its color several times. For a while the card was even pink and starting in 1999 the light green shade once again became in use. More than 10 million foreigners are currently living in the USA on a Green Card.

Kentucky Consular Center

The Green Card Program

The U.S. is proud to be country of immigrants. There are noticeably far more people coming to the USA from some certain countries than from others. Those alone emigrating from Mexico, China and the Philippines outnumber the total number from almost all other countries put together. In order to maintain diversity in the population, U.S. laws regulate immigration from particular regions of the world.

For this reason, the USA has annually given away 55,000 Green Cards chosen at random since 1994. Former president Ronald Reagan had the idea for this program in 1987. He was worried about equalizing the ethnic mix of peoples in the USA after deporting 2 million Mexicans living illegally in the USA. It was important to him to now only create diversity, but to bring qualified people to the USA. The only prerequisite apart from being born in an eligible country is a certain level of education. You can find more detailed information under requirements

Those countries excluded from the lottery are those with an already above-average rate of immigrants who have come to the USA over the last five years. It is possible, however, that these excluded countries can become eligible to participate again in the coming years.

Legal backgroundLegal basis

The Diversity Visa (DV) Program is based on §201 to 204 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1990. You can find the complete text here. The Immigration and Naturalization Service INS determines country eligibility and application rules based on a calculation described in the law. These rules can change from year to year.

Background of the Green Card

History of the Green Card Program

Before the Diversity Visa Program, there was the “NP-5 Lottery Program”. This program first started in 1987 with the Immigration and Control Acts 1986 (IRCA). The NP-5 Lottery was initially for two years and gave away only 5,000 visas to citizens of 36 nations. In 1988, the program was renewed for a further two years and the number of visas increased to 15,000.

In the years 1990 and 1991, 10,000 Green Cards were given away in the framework of the OP-1 Program and the following two years after that, more than 40,000 visas were distributed under the AA-1 Program.

The Diversity Visa as we know it today has annually given away 55,000 Green Cards since 1994. The program also expanded the number of countries eligible to receive the Green Card. Now there are only a handful of countries that are excluded because of an already high quota of immigrants in the USA.

Since 1994, the lottery has taken place in February three times, October four times as well as November and December. In the year 2000, the formerly appointed National Visa Center in Portsmouth had to hand over the processing of the applications to the Kentucky Consular Center, which has been responsible for the receipt and evaluation of the applications since then.

It was possible in the first year to send in as many applications as you wanted. This naturally lead to people sending in hundreds of applications and thus increasing their chances of winning. This was not only unfair, but it also was a lot of work for the US-authorities to process. The US-authorities then created a condition that each person is only entitled to send in one application a year. This means more people have to rely on Lady Fortuna for their luck – and the correct and timely submission of their application. In 1995, more than 1 million applications were disqualified which lead to an increase in lawyers offering their consultation services for the Green Card. The American Dream has been Europe’s market-leader for Green Card consultation since 1996.

Digital submissionElectronic submission

A new rule from the U.S. State Department was issued once again in 2003. The new rule stated that applications sent through the post would no longer be accepted. Instead, the change required that all lottery applications be filed electronically along with a digital photo. With the change, there also came very complex rules in regards to the size, quality, color depth and other details of the digital picture(s). Of course, The American Dream will take care of all these details and will even continue to accept regular passport photos which will be digitalized at no extra charge for any of our customers. 

Keeping up with the times is not always easy for everybody especially if you do not have regular internet access. The American Dream still accepts postal applications and physical photos which will digitalize. The US-authorities even issued the “Public Notice 4446” explicitly recommending people to use an agency for the correct and timely submission of their digital applications and photo. For those with little internet access, we do all the leg work and will keep you informed of the status of your application and you will still receive results and other important information from us per post.

Play it safe and apply to the Green Card Lottery with The American Dream! And more than anything, we want to wish you one thing for your application:

Good Luck!