October 2, 2017

Annual Green Card Lottery for Diversity Immigrants Opens Oct. 3

Holland & Knight Alert
Tara L. Vance | Neal N. Beaton


  • Beginning Oct. 3, 2017, there is a limited application period for many foreign nationals to apply for the chance to get a green card.
  • U.S. law authorizes 50,000 immigrant visas ("green cards") to be available annually for "diversity immigrants."

The U.S. Department of State's 2019 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (more commonly referred to as the "Green Card Lottery") begins Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, at 12:00 p.m. EDT and ends Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, at 12:00 p.m. EDT.

U.S. law authorizes 50,000 immigrant visas ("green cards") to be available annually for "diversity immigrants." This is popularly referred to as a visa "lottery" since applicants are randomly chosen through a computer program among qualified applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

For the 2019 Green Card Lottery, nationals from the following countries are not eligible to apply because more than 50,000 natives from these countries have immigrated to the United States in the past five years:




China (mainland-born)


Dominican Republic

El Salvador









South Korea

United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories



Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible.

Additional information and instructions for the submission of an application (which must be done electronically) can be found at the U.S. Department of State's website. The primary prerequisites to enter the lottery are that the applicant has either: 1) a high school education or the foreign equivalent (defined as successful completion of a 12-year course of elementary and secondary education), or 2) two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience to perform.

Individuals born in countries whose natives qualify are eligible to apply. Additionally, if you were not born in an eligible country, there are two ways in which you may still be eligible to apply: 1) if your spouse was born in a country whose natives are eligible, then you can claim your spouse's country of birth provided that both you and your spouse are names on the selected entry, are found eligible and issued diversity visas, and enter the United States together, or 2) if you were born in a country whose natives are ineligible to apply, but in which neither of your parents was born or legally resident at the time of your birth, you may claim the country of birth of one of your parents if it is a country whose natives are eligible to apply.

Additional Considerations

The visa lottery in past years has been subject to many scams. There is no fee to apply and paying a third party a fee to file the application provides no benefit. Only one application may be submitted per applicant – duplicate applications will render the applicant ineligible. If chosen in the lottery, an applicant is not guaranteed a green card but is given the opportunity for him or her and eligible family members to apply for a green card and evidence eligibility.

For those who plan to apply, we suggest you do so early.

Holland & Knight has experienced immigration attorneys who can answer your questions or assist you in any manner needed. For more information on applying for the 2019 Diversity Visa Lottery, contact Tara Vance or Neal Beaton.  


Information contained in this alert is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not designed to be, and should not be used as, the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal problem. Moreover, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and are constantly changing. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult competent legal counsel.

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