What Are the Chances of Winning the Green Card Lottery?

Path to Citizenship
Path to Citizenship. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Every year, a random selection of applicants is granted the opportunity to apply for a visa through the U.S. State Department's Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program, or the Green Card Lottery. The program is open to applicants around the world, and there are few conditions for entering. The lucky winners—50,000 of them—are given the chance to become permanent residents of the United States.

Breaking Down the Numbers

While it's impossible to determine the exact odds of "winning" a chance at a diversity visa due to the number of factors involved, we can calculate a fair estimate by taking a close look at the numbers.

For DV-2018, the Department of State received about 14.7 million qualified entries during the 34-day application period. (Note: 14.7 million is the number of qualified applicants. It does not include the number of applicants who were rejected because of ineligibility.) Of those 14.7 million qualified applications, approximately 116,000 were registered and notified to make an application for one of the 50,000 available diversity immigrant visas.

That means that for DV-2018, approximately 0.79% of all qualified applicants received notification to make an application and fewer than half of those actually received a diversity visa. Information on statistical breakdown by country is available from the State Department.

All qualified applicants have an equal chance of making it through the random selection, so be sure that you meet the eligibility requirements and submit a complete and accurate application. It is also recommended that you apply early to avoid the system slowdowns that sometimes occur at the end of the registration period.

Entry Requirements

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program's annual lottery is open for applications for about one month in the fall. (The DV-2018 lottery opened on October 4, 2016 and closed on November 7, 2016.) There is no registration fee. Before applying, applicants must meet the following entry requirements:

  • Individuals must be born in a qualifying country. (The natives of some countries—including, most recently, Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, among others—are not eligible since they are the primary candidates for family-sponsored and employment-based immigration.)
  • Individuals must have at least a high school education (or its equivalent), or two years of work experience in a job that requires at least two years of training. (More information about qualifying work experience is available through the Department of Labor's O*Net OnLine.)

Entries are to be submitted online during the open application period. Individuals who submit multiple entries will be disqualified.

Next Steps

Those selected to officially apply for a U.S. visa will be notified on or about May 15. To complete the process, applicants (and any family members applying with them) will need to confirm their qualifications and submit an Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application, along with supporting documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and proof of education or work experience.

The last step of the process is the applicant interview, which will take place at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The applicant will present their passport, photographs, medical exam results, and other supporting materials. At the conclusion of the interview, a consular officer will inform them whether their application has been approved or denied.