The Green Card Lottery: A 50 Cent Gamble


The green card lottery is an annual program run by the State Department since 1990 randomly allocating 50,000 green cards to individuals from countries that have a low rate of immigration to the United States. It is officially known as the Diversity Visa Program.


The program is not without controversy and has been an opposed by Republicans and supported by Democrats.


This year registration opened on October 1, 2013 and remains open until November 2, 2013. There is no cost to participate and the requirements are minimal. An applicant must have a high school education or its equivalent or two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years' training or experience.


Natives of the following countries are excluded this year from applying, because they have sent a total of more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the past five years:


  • Bahamas
  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China (mainland-born)
  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories
  • Vietnam


Applicants can apply for the lottery from anywhere in the world, and can reapply every year.



If an individual "wins" the lottery they have an approximately 50% chance of getting the green card because  twice as many people are selected than there are visas available in order to meet the full visa quota. Winning applicants can bring their spouse and children under the age of 21 with them to the United States.


This program is particularly useful for individuals who wish to come to the United States but do not have the possibility of family or employer sponsorship. It is advisable if a married couple is applying, for both spouses to register separately because if either is selected they will be able to bring their spouse. Since the repeal of DOMA same-sex spouses are also now eligible to accompany their spouse to the United States.