September 30, 2023

By R. Mark Frey

R. Mark Frey,
Immigration Law & You

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as the DV-Lottery Program, came into existence following passage of the Immigration Act of 1990. It’s unique by the fact that, at the time, President George H.W. Bush and congressional leaders recognized the value of diversity and sought its development through a program randomly selecting immigrants from historically underrepresented countries. 

The program is administered by the Department of State with 50,000 immigrant visas set aside for those selected through the lottery process each year. The visas are distributed by region (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania as well as South and Central America and the Caribbean) with more visas allotted to those areas sending fewer immigrants to the United States through Family-Sponsored and Employment-Based visa processing during the previous five years. 

This year’s DV-Lottery registration period commences at noon (Eastern Standard Time – GMT-4) Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, and runs through noon Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. 

Countries deemed ineligible this year include: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) as well as its dependent territories, and Vietnam. (Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible).

Individuals born in countries other than the aforementioned are eligible to register for the Diversity Lottery. Alternatively, one may claim eligibility through one’s spouse if that spouse was born in an eligible country. Likewise, one may claim eligibility through the country of citizenship of one’s parents provided the parents were not born or “legally resident” of the country of one’s birth that has been deemed ineligible.

Additionally, one is required to hold a high school degree or its equivalent (completion of a 12-year course of elementary and secondary education in the United States or comparable education elsewhere) or, alternatively, two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience to perform, per guidelines developed by the Department of Labor.

An applicant will be disqualified if (s)he is unable to meet those eligibility requirements or files more than one application with the Department of State.

Very basic information is required in the application itself: the registrant’s name, date of birth, city and country of birth, gender, country of claimed eligibility for the DV-Lottery, photograph (to be scanned and submitted electronically with the application), mailing address, country where one presently resides, telephone number (optional), email address, highest level of education achieved, marital status with basic information about one’s spouse, if married, and a listing of one’s living children (biological, legally adopted, and step-children) who are unmarried and under the age of 21 at the time of filing the application as well as a photograph of each. Failure to list one’s spouse and children may cause one to lose eligibility for a diversity immigrant visa, if selected. It is very important to provide complete information on the application form.

Commencing May 1, 2018, a registrant may check on the application’s status at This will be the only mechanism for learning about one’s DV-Lottery selection since the Department of State will not send out notifications.

More details about the DV-Lottery Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2019) may be found online here.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is unique and significant by the fact that it illustrates both our country’s commitment to diversity and recognition of the contributions made by peoples from varied lands and backgrounds.

Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead insightfully observed, “(i)f we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse gift will find a fitting place.” Our nation’s founders understood and embraced the concept when they fashioned our Great Seal some 235 years ago with the words, E Pluribus Unum. These powerful words, “Out of Many, One,” are no less significant today.

R. Mark Frey is a St. Paul, Minnesota attorney who has practiced immigration law exclusively for more than 25 years with an emphasis on asylum and other forms of humanitarian relief, family and marriage-based immigration, naturalization, removal defense, appeals, religious workers, and H-1B, L, and E-2 visas.