How to Read the Diversity Visa Lottery Cutoff Numbers on the DOS Visa Bulletin

Even after winning the diversity visa lottery, you must stand in line before submitting your green card application. Here's how to track your eligibility so that you can act quickly when the time comes.

By , Attorney · Temple University Beasley School of Law

Congratulations! You've won the Diversity Visa Lottery ("DV Lottery") and are probably eager to apply for an immigrant visa (a "green card"). The results of the DV Lottery are available on a day in early May, in the year following the one in which you applied. But then starts a potentially anxious wait. You will need to be approved for an immigrant visa before September 30th of that year (or lose your chance entirely), so it is in your best interest to apply for the visa or green card as soon as you can. In this article, you will find information on how to read the Department of State (DOS) Visa Bulletin to determine when your "number is up" and you are green lighted to move ahead with this application process, including:

  • checking your "rank number" in the DV lottery,
  • reading the visa cutoff numbers, and
  • monitoring your rank number until a visa number is available to you.

Check Your DV Rank Number on the Department of State Website

You will use the U.S. Department of State's Entrant Status Check system to find out whether or not you have been selected for the opportunity to apply for a green card in the DV Lottery. To learn more about this see, How Will You Know If You Have Been Selected for the DV Lottery?

If you are one of the lucky winners, you will receive a receipt number for the geographic location of your country and instructions on how to apply for your green card. There are six geographic regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, and South America and the Caribbean. Winners will be instructed to check the DOS Visa Bulletin to learn when their cutoff numbers appear under the appropriate region (or in some instances, their country). You'll need to look at the chart for the Diversity Immigrant (DV) Category.

After the number is announced, you may submit your visa application to your local U.S. consulate (if you live abroad) or apply for adjustment of status (if you live in the U.S. and qualify to use the adjustment procedure, most likely because you're in the country legally).

How to Read the DOS Visa Cutoff Numbers

The Diversity Visa (DV) chart on the DOS Visa Bulletin will list both the geographic regions and several countries that have their own waiting list. Next to the region or country is a cutoff number. If your number is lower than the cutoff number that is listed, then you may now apply for your green card.

For example, if you live in Asia and your number is 6,500 and the Visa Bulletin shows the number 7,000, you are ready to go. If your number is higher than the one listed (such as 8,000), you will need to check the next month's bulletin to see whether the number listed is 8,000 or higher.

Check to See If Next Month's Bulletin Is Published Early

If the Visa Bulletin for the upcoming month is published early, and your number is called there, you can apply at that time. Often the next month's bulletin is published a month in advance. For example, the June bulletin could be published sometime in May. If your number is called in the June bulletin within the month of May, you can submit your application in May.

You Must Act Quickly to Successfully Claim Your Diversity Visa

Again, no more U.S. diversity visas are approved after September 30 following the year in which you apply, so you should apply as early as possible. It can take several months to process a DV visa, and any delay or mistake on your part could doom your chances of getting a green card. (See What Do You Win When You Win the Diversity Visa Lottery?.) Keep a watchful eye on the Visa Bulletin!

Even if your Priority Date has not yet been announced, you should get all your documentation ready in order to submit your application for U.S. lawful permanent residence as soon as you are eligible.

Getting Legal Help

Although you don't need an attorney to register for the DV lottery, it's a different story if you are picked as a "winner." Because of complications and potential delays, this is where hiring an immigration attorney to complete your visa paperwork might be an attractive and worthwhile option, so that you are "ready to go" as soon as your number appears and avoid amateur mistakes.

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