Winning the diversity lottery is perhaps the simplest of the 4 common immigration paths to the U.S., but it is also the least common.
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is limited to those who live in countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Applicants are chosen through a random selection process, and the winners are granted an immigrant visa to enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Applicants for this program must also have a high school diploma (or its equivalent) or two years of work experience in a qualifying occupation.
Each year millions of people apply for the diversity lottery, but only 50,000 visas are made available for applicants and their family members. In fiscal year 2021, those 50,000 were chosen from over 11 million applications–a grant rate of less than 0.5%.
The State Department issues an updated list of countries whose citizens are eligible to apply for the diversity visa every year, and there is a limited window of time that applicants can enter an application. For example the online registration for the 2024 program lasted about a month, beginning on October 5, 2022 and ending on November 8, 2022.
Image Source: https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Diversity-Visa/DV-Instructions-Translations/DV-2024-Instructions-Translations/DV-2024-Infographic.pdf
While wait times for a diversity lottery are much shorter than some other paths, it is still not a ticket to immigrate immediately. The applicants for the 2024 lottery, who registered in 2022, just recently learned the results in May 2023. The lottery winners must then still go through the visa application process. If they meet admission requirements, their visas should be made available by September 30, 2024.
There’s a prevalent myth that it’s easy to immigrate to the U.S. for those willing to do it “the right way,” but it’s not as simple as it may seem. The few immigration pathways available are limited in scope and in number of available slots each year. We continue to see 20th century policies fall short in meeting the demands of a 21st century society. Congress must keep up with a changing world and seek proactive rather than reactive immigration reform.
While 55,000 diversity visas are made available by law each year, functionally only 50,000 are available for general use since 5,000 of those are set aside as part of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act.