** LEGAL UPDATE **
Despite fears that an increasingly anti-immigrant administration would result in Congress cancelling the Diversity Visa Lottery, the U.S. State Department has published instructions for a new application period (for so-called DV-2020). It begins in October of 2018.
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 2020, a total of 50,000 diversity visas (DVs) are being made available.
This year's application period runs from Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at 12:00 noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4) to Tuesday, November 6, 2018 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 terribly slow.
The application can be submitted only using a computer or similar electronic means, at the State Department's website, dvlottery.state.gov. (By the way, if you click this link before the entry period opens, you'll see only language saying that last year's entry period has closed.)
Only one entry for each person is allowed. But if one family member's entry is selected as a “winner,” that person can apply to bring "derivatives," including 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 (under 21, unmarried).
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 (which list has not changed since last year):
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.
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.)
You will have to wait until next year—specifically, until May 7, 2019—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 lottery “winners” will be accessible through September 30, 2020, but don’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 afterwards with a visa application, the visas (green cards) may simply run out.
Effective Date: October 3, 2018