** LEGAL UPDATE **
The U.S. State Department has announced the upcoming opening of a new application period for the Diversity Visa Lottery (called DV-2019), beginning in October 2017.
This annual program allows people from countries with historically low rates of immigration, who meet certain basic qualifying criteria, to enter a free drawing for the right to apply for a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence). For Fiscal Year 2019, a total of 50,000 diversity visas (DVs) will be made available.
This year's application period runs from Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at 12:00 noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4) to Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 12:00 noon, Eastern Standard Time (EST) (GMT-4).
The State Department recommends applying early during this window of opportunity; if you wait until the final week of the registration period, heavy demand has been known to cause the website to become exceedingly slow.
The application can be submitted only using a computer or similar electronic means, at the State Department's website, dvlottery.state.gov. Only one entry for each person is allowed.
The basic rules for this year's visa lottery have not changed from those of previous years. As before, the person must make sure their country is among the eligible ones. You can NOT apply if you are from one of the following countries:
Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.
In fact, that's exactly the same list of countries as last year. People from all other countries can apply (though you might run into other complications if your country does not have good diplomatic relations with the United States).
You must also meet strict eligibility criteria. For example, applicants must show that they have accomplished a certain level of education, to demonstrate that they are employable in the United States. (See Winning a Green Card Through the Visa Lottery for more about these requirements.)
People whose entries are selected as “winners” can apply to bring a spouse (now including same-sex spouses, if legally married according to the laws of the state or country where the marriage took place) and children, as well.
You will have to wait until next year—specifically, until May 1, 2018—to see whether you were selected. You will not receive any notification from the State Department, but will need to check the same website as you first applied through, www.dvlottery.state.gov, to find out. (See How Will You Know If You Have Been Selected for the DV Lottery? for details.)
The online list of who the “winners” are will be accessible through September 30, 2019, but you shouldn’t wait that long to check whether your name was selected. The U.S. government always approves many more lottery entries than it has visas available (on the assumption that some people will drop out or be denied as ineligible). If you don’t act quickly, both in checking your selection and in following up with a visa application, the visas may simply run out.
For details, see one of Nolo's books covering this topic (U.S. Immigration Made Easy or How to Get a Green Card) or the "Diversity Visa Lottery Green Cards" section of Nolo's website. And to access the State Department's detailed instructions and application portal, see the Diversity Visa Process page of its website.
Effective Date: October 3, 2017