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How to Enroll in the U.S. Visa Lottery

There are many ways to legally immigrate to the United States, but only one of them depends completely on luck: the congressionally mandated visa lottery, which offers 50,000 green cards to people from certain countries.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is open to countries with low rates of immigration to the United States, such as Malaysia, Belarus, and Algeria. In order to diversify the immigrant population of the U.S., participation is limited to countries with less than 50,000 new immigrants to the United States per year.

Citizens from countries with already high rates of immigration such as Mexico, Brazil, United Kingdom and China are not eligible to apply. You can learn more about which countries qualify from the State Department’s Diversity Visa page.

How to Participate in the Program

Registration for the 2013 visa lottery will be open from October 4 to November 5, 2011. Participation is only available through the State Department’s website www.dvlottery.state.gov.

A few key facts about the process:

  • There is no fee to apply
  • Only one application is allowed per person (if you apply more than once you will be disqualified)
  • You will be asked to provide photos with specific requirements as well as personal information such as your name, and place and date of birth. If you are married, you’ll also need to provide information about your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21
  • Winners will be selected randomly by computer
  • You need to have at least a high school education or its equivalent; or have worked two of the last five years in a job that required at least two years of training

What to Do after Enrolling

Once you have registered, make sure to print the confirmation page and store it in a safe place. You will need this information later to check your status. The Department of State will notify the winners directly. Everyone will be able to check their status starting May 1, 2012 on the Department of State website.

People who were not chosen can participate in the program the following year and as long as the program is available.

How to Avoid Being Disqualified

To avoid being disqualified be sure to follow all of the instructions outlined in the entry form.

Provide all of the information that is asked. Omitting certain information could lead to future complications. For example, if you don’t claim to have children and are selected for a green card, it will be impossible to immigrate any children you may have.

Common mistakes include identifying yourself as a citizen of the wrong country or filling out more than one entry. Be sure to keep record of your confirmation number, which is given to you when you enroll. People who lose this number will not be able to check their status.

How to Avoid Fraud

The Department of State has issued several warnings about fraudulent websites that pretend to be government sites. These portals falsely promise to improve your chances of being selected.

Some websites even use official looking seals and flags to make them look legitimate, and many also charge for their services. These things should be warning signs: participation in the Diversity Visa Lottery is free and the Department of State’s Diversity Visa lottery website is the only place where you can fill out an entry form.