Do You Meet the Education or Work Experience Requirements of the Diversity Visa Program?

Although the Diversity Visa (DV) program has fewer eligibility requirements than many other U.S. visas or green cards, that doesn’t mean it’s open to any and every applicant. Learn more about the educational requirements here.

By , Attorney · Temple University Beasley School of Law

Although the Diversity Visa (DV) program has fewer eligibility requirements than many other U.S. immigrant visas or green cards, that doesn't mean it's open to any and every applicant. Even if you are from an eligible country, as described in How to Enter the Diversity Visa Lottery, you must also have sufficient qualifications to find employment in the United States.

What's more, you will need to demonstrate your qualifications, although not until later in the visa application process, after your name has been selected in the lottery. That will mean providing evidence that you have either:

  1. received a high school diploma or completed a 12-year course of elementary and secondary education, or
  2. a minimum of two years' experience within the past five years in a job that requires at least two years of training.

Even though you do not need to have this proof available at the time of applying for the DV lottery, make sure that you meet the above employability qualifications before submitting a lottery entry. If you are not qualified to enter the DV lottery and you enter anyways and win, your visa or green card application will be rejected and any filing fees and related expenses (such as attorneys' fees) will be your responsibility to pay. You will waste both your time and your money.

When DV Lottery Winners Must Submit Proof of Experience and Education to the U.S. Government

When, exactly, will you have to provide proof of your employability and education? Applicants whose names are chosen in the lottery must provide this evidence during their visa or green card interview.

This is most likely to take place at the U.S. consulate in your home country; though if you are legally present in the U.S., and will apply using the procedure known as "adjustment of status," it will take place at an office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Try not to send original documents! When preparing your paperwork, think carefully about what you are or aren't willing to give up, permanently, to a U.S. government official's file. So, for example, you might prepare a copy of your high school diploma (with appropriate translation), but also bring the original, for the consular or USCIS official to examine. Or, if you will be providing a letter from your employer ensuring that you have held your job for at least two years during the past five years, you might give up the original—but should make a copy for your files.

Are Your Experience and Education Sufficient to Qualify for a Diversity Visa by U.S. Standards?

The concept of a "high school" education can mean different things in different countries. A high school diploma for purposes of the DV lottery is proof that the applicant successfully completed a course of elementary and secondary education that is equivalent to the 12-year course of study in the United States.

Applicants who did not complete high school and instead passed an equivalency exam or a course correspondence course will not be considered high school graduates (for DV purposes). They must instead prove that they have work experience in a qualifying occupation.

In order to determine which occupations qualify for the work experience requirement, the Department of State uses the Department of Labor's O*Net website at There, applicants can look up their occupations to determine whether they are considered specialized enough for the green card lottery.

Winners of the green card lottery without a high school education must hold a position in a Job Zone 4 or 5, classified in a Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) range of 7.0 or higher. Both the zone number and SVP range can be located on the O*Net summary for the specific occupation.

For example, let's say your background was as a Construction Carpenter. This is classified on O*Net as a Job Zone 2 occupation with an SVP range of 4.0 to <6.0. Therefore, this occupation will not qualify you for the DV lottery.

Getting Legal Help

If you have further questions, or if your research seems to indicate that you do not qualify for the DV program, you might wish to consult an experienced immigration attorney. The attorney can research what other avenues might be available by which to live and work in the United States.

For example, if you have a qualifying spouse who meets the DV requirements and is successful in the lottery, you might be able to come to the United States on a DV-2 visa. (See Beating the Odds: Increase the Chances for You and Your Family to Win the Diversity Visa Lottery.)

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