What is the Green Card Lottery?

The Green Card Lottery, the well-known name for the United States Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, is the most unique lottery of its kind in the world. Through this program, the US authorities give away 55,000 Green Cards every year and make the dream of living and working in the USA come true!

Green Card Lottery – What is it?

The annual Green Card Lottery is known officially as the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program or the Diversity Visa Program (DV). The abbreviation DV is usually followed by two numbers designating the year; for example, DV-19 for the Green Card Lottery for the year 2017. The idea behind the lottery is to keep the United States of America diverse, therefore Green Cards won in the lottery are under the Diversity Visa category.

The first Green Card Lottery was held in 1994. The application process, however, was not without its difficulties. Almost one year later in 1996, it was possible to apply to the Green Card Lottery with The American Dream and since then many customers have received a Green Card with us. The DV-Program exists namely because the United States of America wants to maintain their great cultural diversity. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the US government has given away 55,000 Green Cards through the Diversity Visa Lottery (shortened to DV Lottery or DV-2019) annually. Winners of the lottery are selected randomly. At first, the name DV-19 might seem confusing because you apply for the DV-19 in the year 2017. The year 2019 in the DV-19 programs stands for the American tax year that begins on October 1, 2018 and ends on September 2019. Green Card winners also receive their Green Cards during this period of time.  

Why is there a Green Card Lottery? 

The principle behind the lottery is to give a wide variety of people a chance to win a US immigrant visa. Those who win in the lottery have the chance to get a Green Card. The Green Card Lottery was brought to life with the Immigration Act of 1990 with the purpose of giving people from countries with low immigration rates the chance to move to the USA. The USA is a country made up of people from different countries and the wish is to keep America diverse through immigration. It is no wonder that America is famously known as the great melting pot: Immigrants from around the world have played a significant role in shaping American culture with their own traditions and customs. Thanks to the unique lottery under the Green Card Program, every person has a chance to get closer to emigrating to the USA. 

Picture of a group of people forming the outline of the USA

How does the Green Card Lottery work? 

Applying for the Green Card Lottery through the US authorities takes place once a year and since 2003 is only possible online. The American Dream gives you the possibility to register any time of the year, update your personal details for the application and review your data including photos before your application is submitted to the US authorities. The Green Card Lottery, as the name already suggests, is a lottery and every time you participate, you have the chance to win. Sometimes it may take a few years to get lucky, so it is important to use your chance to participate every year. Also, to avoid missing your chance to participate, you should pay attention to the application deadlines for the Green Card Lottery.

With support from The American Dream, no deadline will go unnoticed and we guarantee that your application will meet the requirements set by the U.S. authorities. We make sure that you have the best chances to win in the Green Card Lottery! Be aware that countries that exceed the quota for the allowed number of US visas will be excluded from the lottery. For this reason alone, you should take your chance to apply as long as it is possible. People born in countries with already high US immigration rates, such as Mexico, China and the Philippines, are not allowed to participate in the lottery. On the other hand, it is also possible for a country to be admitted to the lottery. For example, Poland was taken off the list of excluded countries in 2011 and Ecuador in 2016. Since then, these countries can participate in the Green Card Lottery. Participation requirements for the Green Card Lottery are constantly changing and that is why is it worth it to keep yourself informed of the current situation.

Legal Basis

The Diversity Visa Lottery (DV Program) is lawful under the conditions established by Section §201 and §204 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The DV Program is administered by the Department of State who work with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the American immigration authorities. The calculation for the distribution of the visas among countries is stipulated by this law as well as which countries can participate. The law also defines the submission regulations which can change from year to year. 

History of the Green Card Lottery

This lottery to receive the right to permanently live in the USA is one of kind across the globe. The idea came from the former U.S. president Ronald Reagan in 1987. At this time, he was worried about the waning ethnic diversity in the United States, especially after he passed a bill to give amnesty and resident permanent cards to 2 million Mexicans living illegally in the USA. Today as back then, there are two very significant ideas behind the DV Program: First of all, America wants to protect its cultural diversity characterized by a long history of immigration. Secondly, the Green Card Lottery should revamp the image of the USA as a country of possibilities. The lottery gives people who have no other possibility to get an immigration visa a chance to get a permanent visa to live and work in the USA. The requirements make it so that almost everyone can participate in the Green Card Lottery.      

The first us GREEN CARD PROGRAM

The first version of the Diversity Visa Program was the “NP-5 Lottery Program”. This program was established in 1987 under the Immigration and Control Acts 1986 (IRCA) and allocated 5,000 visas to be given away to 36 participating countries annually for two years. In 1986 the program was renewed for another two years and the limit was increased to 15,000 visas per lottery. 

In the years 1990 and 1991, 10,000 Green Cards were given away under the new OP-1 Program. In the following two years, the AA-1 Program was established as a temporary solution and gave away 40,000 visas. Moreover, only 37 countries were allowed to participate in the program and of all the visas, 16,000 were reserved for Northern Ireland.

It wasn’t until 1994 when the current version of the Diversity Visa Program was established to give away 55,000 Green Cards in a random drawing. The participation requirements are so that almost every country can participate, excluding those which already have a high rate of immigration. Countries are not allowed to participate in the Green Card Lottery when more than 50,000 residents of that country have legally emigrated to the USA in the last five years. This could be through, for example, a family- or work-based visa.

  • Since 1994, the Green Card Lottery has taken place once a year and the application submission period is generally between October and November.
  • In 2000, the authorities responsible for processing the Green Card applications changed. The National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth was replaced by the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC).
  • Since 1995, applicants are only allowed to send in one application per person per year. Those who send in more than one application will be automatically disqualified. More importantly, all information given in the application must be correct and you do not want to risk your chance. The American Dream comes into play here as your reliable emigration consultation agency.
  • In 1995, there were more than a million disqualifications due to applications being full of mistakes, such as missing or false data. 
  • All Green Card applications had to be submitted in written form until 2002. Even The American Dream had to bring tens of thousands of original applications from our customers to our New York branch. From there, all the letters were mailed in the USA to the responsible US authorities.
  • In 2003, a new system required all Green Card applications to be submitted online. That means that photos must be uploaded in a digital format and all personal information and data must be submitted electronically.
  • The US authorities no longer notify winners via post. Instead, participants in this digital age are expected to check the status of their application by themselves online. The American Dream will send you written confirmation of your personal lottery results. With us, you can rest assured that your application is in good hands. 

What does winning a Green Card mean for my family?

As the saying goes, happiness is the only thing that doubles if shared! And the same goes for luck in the Green Card Lottery! Those who win have already managed the first big step in making the USA their new home! Who actually profits when a Green Card is won? We have summarized the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions our Green Card experts are asked below. 

Those who win the Green Card can share their luck with others! Your children would like to work or study in the USA? Winning a Green Card makes it easy: when you win, your children win too!

  • All unmarried children under the age of 21 will benefit from your Green Card-luck!
  • Accordingly, all your children under 21, biological or adopted, as well as those of your spouse must be listed in your Green Card Lottery application because they also have a right to receive a Green Card. 

Use the benefits of a green card for the whole family and your new life in America can start straightaway.

Not without my partner- double your green card chances!

It sure does, so don’t miss your chance and register your spouse for the lottery at the same time. The best part is: If your spouse wins the Green Card, then the other automatically wins as well. Were you not married when your application was submitted, that is, you got married after your application was sent? That is also not a problem. As long as you marry before the consulate appointment or directly after receiving your winner’s notification, your better half can still come with you.

Let the American adventure begin. Same-sex marriage is subject to the same regulations as long as the marriage is valid according to US laws.

Can children over the age of 21, siblings or parents also apply for a Green Card?

Even unmarried children over the age of 21 can get a slice of your Green Card lucky pie! This process is the so called family-based preference. It is important, that the applicant is a Legal Permanent Resident or even US citizen, in order to apply for a Green Card for spouses, children and even siblings or parents at a later date. We summarized some important facts about this topic in the section Apply for a Green Card.

  • If one member of the family wins, however, not all qualified family members are required to apply for a Green Card.
  • Each family member has a right to decide if they want to emigrate to the USA.

The decision to start a new life in the USA is a big step towards a new adventure. From our experience, most families express the importance of staying together and making the big step towards a new life in America as a family. Read what our Green Card winners over the last years have experienced. Who knows, maybe you can see yourself in their shoes?    

DV-2019 Green Card participants must have a little patience as they wait for the results of the Green Card Lottery to be announced in mid-Mai 2018. Until then all we can do is practice patience and cross our fingers! There is the current Green Card Lottery DV-2020 for those whose names are not yet in the pot or missed applying for the DV-2019! Take advantage of the chance to win double and soon you and your better half will have something to celebrate together! 

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