Obtaining a United States Permanent Resident Green Card is generally a challenging and uncertain process, and most individuals do not meet the requirements of immigrant Visa programs that ultimately provide Green Cards. However, for those who live in certain countries, there is an opportunity to apply for a Green Card through a program that has only minimal requirements: the US Green Card Lottery.
The United States Green Card Lottery—officially called the Diversity Immigrant Visa program—makes available 50,000 Permanent Resident Green Cards every year to individuals from countries with low rates of US immigration. A country with a low rate of immigration is one with fewer than 50,000 US immigrants in the last 5 years. This year, individuals from the following countries are excluded from the Lottery, since the number of immigrants from these countries exceeded the 50,000 cap during the last five years: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland), and Vietnam. Anyone born in one of these countries, regardless of where they currently live, cannot apply for the Lottery.
Aside from being born in an eligible country, you must also meet either one of the following two requirements to qualify for the Diversity Visa program. First, an applicant must have a high school diploma. Second, an applicant must have worked during two of the last five years in a job that requires at least two years of training. (Of course, any applicant must also be generally admissible to the United States—that is, they must meet basic health requirements and not have a significant criminal record.)
All Lottery applications are made online through the US Department of State during the open registration period, which is typically during the month of October. Submitting an application is free—there is no fee required. Lottery winners are selected randomly by a government computer. At the beginning of May, applicants can find out if they were selected by going online and checking the status of their application.
Being selected as a Lottery winner does not guarantee that an individual will obtain a Green Card. The reason is that more winners are selected than there are Green Cards available. In fact, more than 100,000 applicants are selected as winners, compared to the 50,000 Green Cards that will eventually be awarded. The reason that so many winners are selected is because the US government knows that not all applicants will meet the necessary requirements—the government wants to make sure that all 50,000 available Green Cards are eventually awarded.