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Green Card: Green Card Lottery

Each year the U.S. government gives out a certain number of green cards (or Diversity Visas) to residents of countries around the world to come to the United States. By allowing only residents of countries whose citizens have not emigrated to the U.S. in large numbers in preceding years the opportunity to emigrate, the government hopes to increase the cultural diversity of the U.S. population.

To describe the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2003) in detail, we have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions. Please note that the rules governing DV-2003 vary from year to year. The information below is only based on the DV-2003 program that was held in the year 2001.

What is the DV Lottery?
The DV Lottery is the common term for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2003) and it is governed by Section 203(c) of the Immigration Act of 1990. People who are citizens of (and who were born in) qualifying countries and are living in the United States can apply for the DV-2003. The government then draws 55,000 (as many as 5,000 may be reserved for The Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act) applications from all of those submitted1, and then offers the winners a "green card."

1 The government actually draws more than 55,000 winners, but many do not follow up on. Regardless of how many winners apply for visas, only 55,000 visas are made available each year through the DV Lottery.

Who is eligible for the DV Lottery?
An applicant for the DV Lottery must:
Be a native of a qualifying country, or be married to, and applying with, a native of a qualifying country, or, be born to parents who were neither born in nor residents of an ineligible country and Have a high school or equivalent education, or have spent at least two of the last five years in a job that requires at least two years of training.

Who is not eligible for the DV Lottery?
People from countries that the United States considers "high admission" countries. A high admission country is any country from which the United States has admitted 50,000 immigrants in the last five-year period. This can make the list of ineligible countries change from year to year.

What are the eligible countries for DV-2003?
All countries are eligible except those in the following list: Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, Vietnam.
Each country is considered part of one of six regions.

What are the six regions?
Africa, Asia, Europe, South America/ Central America / Caribbean, North America, and Oceania. Before the lottery, each region will be given a limit on the number of winners who can come from that region.

Is there any limit to the number of winners from a given country or region?
Yes. No country may have more than 7% of the winners (3,500). Additionally, there are regional limits, but those have not yet been determined for DV-2003.

What has changed since last year?
The address where people send their applications has changed. Applications sent to the wrong address will be disqualified, so be certain that you get the proper address and zip code on your envelope if you apply. Also, Macau SAR is now eligible.

Can my spouse submit his/her own application if I am submitting one?
Yes. You may each submit applications, and you both qualify (along with the dependents listed on your application) if either of your applications is drawn. If you both submit applications, you must make sure that you list the same dependents on both forms. You must each personally sign your own applications.

Can I apply if I already have another type of visa or if I am living in the United States?
Yes. So long as you meet all of the eligibility requirements, you may apply for the DV Lottery. If you win, you will be given the opportunity to change your status.

How much does it cost to apply?
Nothing. The DV Lottery is free to applicants, though you will have to pay all of the standard fees for your diversity visa if you are selected and follow up on your application.

When can I apply for the DV Lottery?
Each year there is a month-long period during which you may apply. The period starts on noon of the first Monday in October (for DV-2003 this is between noon on October 1, 2001, and noon on October 31, 2001).

What do I put on my application?
First of all, there is no application form. To apply, simply include all of the information below (using in the English alphabet, unless otherwise noted) on a typed or computer-printed sheet of paper:

  • Your full name, with the last name (your surname or family name) printed first and underlined,
  • Your date of birth in this format: day month year (e.g. 10 January 1970),
  • Your place of birth in this format: city/town, county/district/province, country (e.g. Dijon, Cote D'Or, France),
  • The name of your native country, if different from your country of birth (if you were born in one country, and married someone from another country, you can claim your spouse's country as your native country; however, you must indicate on the application that you are doing that),
  • Names, dates of birth, and places of birth of your spouse (if married), and any children under the age of 21, even if they do not live with you,
  • Your full mailing address,
  • Recent photographs (preferably taken in the last six months) of yourself and your spouse and each child measuring 2 inches (50mm) square. Your name and date of birth must be printed on the back and the picture must be attached to the application with clear tape (do not use paperclips or staples),
  • Your customary signature written in your native language.

Can an attorney help me?
Anyone can help you prepare your application, but no one can improve your chances of being selected. Don't believe anyone's claim that they can get your application selected; the people making these claims are just try to get your money. The selection process is random.

Where do I send my application?
Send it to the address below. Remember to use the correct zip code for your native country officially designated on your application (usually your country of birth). If you are unsure which region your country belongs to, check the U.S. State Department page.


DV-2003 Program
Kentucky Consular Center
1001 Visa Crest
Migrate, KY 41901-1000


DV-2003 Program
Kentucky Consular Center
2002 Visa Crest
Migrate, KY 41902-2000


DV-2003 Program
Kentucky Consular Center
3003 Visa Crest
Migrate, KY 41903-3000

South America/Central America/Caribbean:

DV-2003 Program
Kentucky Consular Center
4004 Visa Crest
Migrate, KY 41904-4000


DV-2003 Program
Kentucky Consular Center
5005 Visa Crest
Migrate, KY 41905-5000

North America:

DV-2003 Program
Kentucky Consular Center
6006 Visa Crest
Migrate, KY 41906-6000

Are there any special mailing instructions?
Yes. You must mail your application in an envelope measuring between 6 and 10 inches (15 and 25 cm) in length and between 3.5 and 4.5 inches (9 and 11 cm) in width. In addition to the address of the Kentucky Consular Center written in the middle of the front of the envelope, you must include a return address in the upper left corner of the envelope. Your return address must include your full mailing address and your country of nativity (even if it is the same as the country in the return address).

When does the DV Lottery take place?
The DV Lottery takes place after the application period ends and all applications are numbered, so there is no exact date for the lottery. Since winners are notified between May and July of the year following the lottery, everything will be concluded before then.

Can I be disqualified in any way?
Yes, there are several ways you can be disqualified. Avoid these mistakes:
Submitting an incomplete application,
Making false claims on your application,
Submitting more than one application for the same year,
Mailing the entry to the wrong address or otherwise incorrectly addressing the envelope,
Sending your application by priority mail, fax, or any other means that requires special handling,
(If selected) Listing dependents on your visa application that were not on your DV Lottery application (new family members are exempted from this).

When will I know if I won?
Winners in the DV-2003 Lottery will be notified by mail between April and July of 2001. The notification will include instruction about how to apply for an immigrant visa.
Notification will be sent to the address provided on the winner's application.
People whose applications are not drawn will not be informed that they did not win.

How do I get a green card if I win?
If you are selected in the lottery, you will get information about how to apply for your visa. Winning does not guarantee a visa, and it does not grant any waivers or exemptions when applying for a visa. Winners must still meet all visa eligibility requirements.

How long do I have to wait to get my visa if I win?
Approximately one year, depending one when you receive your notification. All of the DV-2003 visas or status adjustments (including those of qualified family members) must be issued before September, 30, 2002 (by the end of fiscal 2002). This is not an application deadline, so be sure that you apply well enough in advance to allow for the processing of your visa application.

Where do I send a complaint?
If you have a complaint against a U.S. consultant or company that you feel cheated you (committed fraud) in some way connected with the DV Lottery, contact your local consumer affairs office or the Federal Trade Commission. You can call the FTC at 1-877-382-4357 or (202) 382-4357. TDD users may call (202) 326-2502. You can mail the FTC at the address below:

Consumer Response Center
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20580

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