Diversity Visa Lottery vs. Green Card Lottery: What’s the Difference?

When thinking of ways to immigrate to the United States, you might have heard the terms Diversity Visa Lottery and Green Card Lottery. Without having them explained, it can seem confusing that there might be two different lotteries you can enter.

So, we’re here to explain what the terms mean and, by extension, highlight any possible differences.

What are the Diversity Visa Lottery and Green Card Lottery?

To keep things simple and avoid some of the confusion that surrounds two terms, the Diversity Visa Lottery and Green Card Lottery are actually the same thing. The most important thing to note is that the United States only runs one immigration lottery, so regardless of what terms you see thrown around, they refer to the same thing.

Its actual name is the Diversity Visa Program, and entrants win a Green Card for lawful permanent residence in the United States. This is why it’s known as both the Diversity Visa Lottery and Green Card Lottery. As you can see from the description, both terms are technically correct.

Since the purpose of the lottery is to increase cultural diversity in the United States, the lottery frequently has the word diversity included. On the other hand, the visa lottery means that you are applying for the selection process for potential Green Card status in the United States. This is why some refer to the lottery as the Green Card Lottery.

Purpose of the Diversity Visa Lottery

As mentioned, the purpose of the Diversity Visa Lottery is to increase cultural diversity in the United States. Like many countries, the US receives more immigrants from some countries than others. These typically include European countries, Canada, Mexico, and Australia.

While on the surface this is fine, it can often lead to a lack of opportunities for people from other countries. For example, if a company is advertising for a job in the United States, they might prefer candidates from English-speaking countries. This might not be stated explicitly, but it happens quite often.

So, the purpose of the Diversity Visa Lottery is to give chances to people from countries with comparatively low rates of immigration to the United States. The Green Card Lottery was added to the Immigration and Nationality Act at the beginning of the 1990s in an effort to encourage a wider variety of immigrants from different parts of the world.

The lottery provides opportunities for foreign nationals from eligible countries to submit an application for the selection process. If you are from an eligible country and have been considering the lottery you have probably heard it referred to by both the terms mentioned so far.

USCIS Specifications for the Green Card Lottery

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, there are specific statutes that define the guidelines for the Diversity Visa Lottery. These dictate which countries are eligible for the lottery every year and the personal requirements for applicants.

To be eligible, countries must have an immigration total of fewer than 50,000 immigrants during the previous five years. The countries that qualify in any given year are divided into six different geographic areas according to population numbers. The most underrepresented countries are given priority status for immigration admission to the US.

Due to the rolling nature of immigration numbers, the list of eligible diversity visa lottery countries can change each year. A large number of national winners in a previous year, combined with normal Green Card approvals, might knock a country off the list.

However, this isn’t too common, as the Green Card Lottery does place limits on how many visas each country can win. Specifically, an individual country can only receive a maximum of 7% of the total visas, which equates to 3,850. This is to help encourage fairness and diversity among the Green Card Lottery Winners.

The statutes for the Green Card Lottery set forth by USCIS have not been modified since the early 1990s, except for an Act enforced in 1997, which is known as the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act. It reduced the annual limit of 55,000 to 50,000 to offset the number of visas issued to refugees who were unsuccessful in the lottery. These were refuge seekers from El Salvador and Guatemala as well as communist countries in Europe.

Diversity Visa Lottery Eligibility

Despite the Green Card Lottery being a random draw, there are still eligibility requirements. An applicant must meet these to submit an entry to the lottery and, if they win, they still have to go through standard immigration checks.

For this reason, USCIS selects up to 125,000 winners despite there only being up to 55,000 available visas. It also expects some people to drop out or not continue their applications after winning.

So, the eligibility requirements for submitting an entry to the Diversity Visa Lottery are as follows.

You must hold a high school diploma (or equivalent) and have at least two years of experience or training in a specific occupation. While the Green Card Lottery is intended to improve diversity, the US still likes applicants who can contribute to the economy through employment.

If you are married either you or your spouse must be a native of one of the qualifying countries and you must undergo the visa interview process with the consular in your country, in addition to inspection upon entry to the United States.

As with all visa applications, you’re also expected to have an acceptable level of English. This is usually investigated during the Diversity Visa Interview process and isn’t something most applicants should worry about.

A Green Card Lottery application also covers all your on-US-born children, regardless of whether you are (or ever have been) married to their other parent. Unmarried children under 21 can enter the US legally as part of your diversity visa. They, along with your spouse, are known as derivatives.

Applying for the Green Card Lottery

While applying for the Green Card Lottery is arguably easier than other visas, it’s still a legal process. Also, your application will be thrown out for missing or incorrect information. After all, USCIS has plenty of applications to replace it with.

As such, it’s worth using an official Immigration Service to help with yours. US Green Card Office is the largest Immigration Service in the world, and we can guarantee that your application will be accepted by USCIS. To apply online today using our service to avoid being disqualified.

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