** LEGAL UPDATE **
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 2021, a total of 55,000 diversity visas (DVs) are being made available.
This year's application period runs from Wednesday, October 2, 2019 at 12:00 noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4) to Tuesday, November 5, 2019 at 12:00 noon, Eastern Standard Time (EST) (GMT-4).
The State Department recommends that people register 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 registration entry 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 per person is allowed. If, however, one family member's entry is selected as a “winner,” that person can apply to bring family "derivatives." This means a spouse (opposite sex or same-sex, if legally married according to the laws of the state or country where the marriage took place), as well as children who are under age 21 and remain unmarried through green card approval.
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 submit an entry if you are from one of the following countries (which list has seen some additions and subtractions since last year):
Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.
People from all other countries can register. Realize, however, that 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 must wait until next year—specifically, until May 5, 2020—to see whether you were selected to continue with this process. You will not receive any notification from the State Department, but will need to check the same website 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, 2021. If you wait that long to check whether your name was selected, however, you're likely to lose out entirely. The U.S. government always approves more diversity visa entries than it has visas available for. It figures that some people who register will later drop out or be denied as ineligible. But, its guesses aren't necessarily on target. If you don’t act quickly, both in checking your selection and in following up afterwards with a visa or green card application, the visa numbers could simply run out before you finish the long and complicated application process.
Effective Date: October 2, 2019