Immigration Diversity Lottery...You Can Lose Even If You Win

To allow people to emigrate to the U.S. from countries with low rates of immigration, the Diversity Lottery program was started. The program randomly selects from among the applicants those who can apply to get a green card. Since no ties to relatives in the U.S. are required, the program is intended to allow a more diverse group of people to qualify for permanent residence.

For the next few years,(unless eliminated by new laws), the lottery program will be run to select the lucky winners. (We shall see that being selected does not always mean getting a green card.) The fiscal year for the U.S. government is from October of a year to Septemberof the next year. Lottery applications are accepted between specifically announced dates. Applications received before or after the announced dates are rejected. About 3 to 5 million people apply each year for the lottery

After the selections are made, the selected names are available on a special US Government website. The names are not public and only the applicant can verify his/her selection. NO DV NOTICES OF SELECTION ARE SENT BY E-MAIL. E-mail DV notices of selection are not genuine and are an atttempt to obtain money for false information.Those selected are considered for the fiscal year which begins the following October 1st. Any visas not issued by the end of the next fiscal year (September 30), are voided. A new application is needed for each year.

A number is assigned to each selected person in order. The names selected will have lower rank numbers. More people are notified than there are visas available so those with lower rank numbers have a better chance of actually getting a green card. The diversity visas are limited according to the area of the world (Europe, Africa, and others) and also by country. After a while, visas may run out for a particular world area or country.

Each month the Department of State publishes the Visa Bulletin which includes a list showing the rank cutoff number. Only people with rank numbers below the cutoff can apply. Applications can be made at a consulate or at an immigration office if the person is in the US. The rank number must be below the cutoff when applying for the green card and also at the time the visa is issued or when the adjustment of status takes place. During Fiscal Year 1995, all rank numbers became available during February allowing any selected person to apply. Then by the time the immigration office processed their applications, many people's rank number had gone above the new cutoff. These applicants, some of whom had already been interviewed and paid fees, were not able to get the green card. The "winners" had lost.

A DV application can only be filed electronically through the Internet. "Paper" applications are not accepted.

Some people believe that because of the way the program is run with notices going to more people than can be accommodated and with the other problems mentioned above, that the Diversity Program is more of a trick than a lottery. The US Congress has been discussing changing or eliminating the Diversity Lottery program. (What Congress gives, Congress can take away.)

There can be a serious problem for lottery selectees who are the US in unauthorized status. The law which allowed out of status people to apply for the DV green card in the US (Section 245i of the Immigation law) is no longer in effect. The DV "winner" who is out of status can no longer apply in the US for the green card. If they go back home to apply, they will be subject to the 3 year and 10 year bar to re-entry if they were out of status for 6 months or more. They cannot get the green card here and they cannot get it at home. The DV lottery has become unavailable for those out of status in the US for 6 months or more.

WARNING: False and fraudulent e-mails have been sent containing what appears to be a notice of being selected for the DV lottery. The US goverment DOES NOT USE e-mail to send DV notices. Official DV Lottery selection status and information is on a US Government website at

The fraudulent e-mails attempt to have the receiver send fees for the DV lottery.

These false messages should be ignored or reported to the US Federal Trade Commission.

Hope The DV program does give hope to people in most countries of the world who have no other way of getting a green card. Even with its problems, the DV lottery program allows 50,000 new permanent residents to enter the U.S. each year. They are the lucky winners.

You can look at our Easy-To-Read Visa Bulletin which gives the diversity visa allocations by area of the world and the cut-off numbers for Diversity Visas.
You can send general questions by e-mail to

Return to The Immigration Home Page sm

© Richard Madison 2011

Last edit 06 April 2011

Law Office of Richard Madison