What is the Green Card Lottery?

If you have decided to live in the United States, the Green Card lottery is one of the best ways to obtain permanent residency and a work permit. Here are some questions to consider when participating in the lottery.

Definition of the Green Card Lottery

Each year, the Green Card Lottery enables 55,000 people from around the world to live and work permanently in the United States. Due to the nature of the lottery, people from all eligible countries have a fairly good chance of receiving a green card, provided they make no mistakes throughout the application process.

The Green Card, also known as the “Permanent Resident Card,” grants the lucky winner the rights that almost all U.S. citizens have.

History of the Green Card Lottery

People from all over should have the opportunity to live a better life in the United States. However, very high rates of immigration from specific regions, such as Mexico and China, have in the past led to imbalances between different ethnic groups.

As a result, in the late 1980s, President Ronald Reagan created the Green Card Lottery and introduced annually changing immigration limits for participating countries.

1987:The former diversity visa program, known as the NP-5 Lottery, was based on the Immigration and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), but only offered 5,000 visas per year, distributed among members in only 36 countries.

1990 – 1991:Under the new OP-1 program, 10,000 green cards were issued. Over the next two years, 40,000 visas have been issued under the AA-1 program as a temporary solution.

1994:The current Diversity Visa Program was first introduced in 1994 and has been the lottery winner of 55,000 green cards each year since then.

1995:New conditions of participation. Only one application could be submitted per person per year. This is still true today. Whoever submits more than one application will be automatically disqualified. Also, in 1995 there were more than one million disqualifications due to errors and incorrect or missing information in the application.

If you do not want to lose your chance, you should have your application thoroughly checked by an expert. In this case, American Dreams will be helpful as a reliable immigration advice.

2000: The agency responsible for green card applications is no longer the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, but now the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC).

2002: The mandatory paper form for green card applications was abolished. As a result, the tens of thousands of envelopes containing the original applications that the American Dream team had been shipping to the United States each year prior to this time were no longer needed.

2003: Since 2003, all green card applications have been submitted digitally. Photographs must be provided in a special format in digital form, and all personal data must also be retrieved online.

2019: Implementation of a new passport system. Since this policy change, only holders of valid passports are eligible to participate in the Green Card lottery.


Who can participate in the Green Card lottery?

In general, anyone born in one of the currently eligible countries can participate in the Green Card lottery if they meet the following requirements

Option 1

Valid passport At least 12 years of formal primary and secondary education

Option 2

Valid Passport At least two years of professional work experience (within the last five years) requiring at least two years of training. This experience must have been gained within the last five years.

A rule change for 2019 excludes people without a valid passport from the Green Card lottery. This resulted in a decrease in the number of participants from some countries, while – at the same time – doubling the chances for those with passports.

Which countries are not eligible for the DV lottery?

In order to balance the U.S. nationality mix, the following countries are currently ineligible to participate in the Green Card Lottery




China (including Hong Kong SAR)


Dominican Republic

El Salvador









South Korea

United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its territories



However, there are exceptions. If you were born in one of the excluded countries, but your spouse was born in a qualifying country, you can still participate in the DV Lottery.

This also applies to people whose parents are only visiting the country where you were born. If you were born during a short trip and both of your parents were born in a qualifying country, you can still participate.

Don’t have an institution? Missing out on the green card lottery

The lottery sounds fairly easy at first. Nevertheless, millions of participants fail every year due to bureaucratic hurdles. Anyone who has read the photo requirements knows the technical and content pitfalls of the process. Not to mention the 70+ page form you must complete after the winning notification, which causes many people to fail.

The list of possible errors is long, and if you are disqualified, you will never find out why. As a result, many Green Card Lottery participants are disqualified year after year due to the same mistakes without ever learning about it.

How Agencies Can Help You Win a Green Card

To prevent mistakes and thus avoid disqualification, thousands of American fans rely on agencies like American Dream. The experts at these agencies can safely guide you through the entire process or – depending on your price plan – even do all the work for you if you get premium services. In addition, with an agency, you won’t miss the tight four-week deadline the U.S. government has set for applications.

If you’d like to participate, check out our services and fees. For further questions about our Green Card lottery services, please use our contact form.

What data do I need for the Green Card Lottery?

To apply for the Green Card lottery, you must provide the following information.


First Name(s)

Last name

Date of Birth




City and country of birth

Highest level of education

Passport number

Spouse’s personal data (if applicable)

Personal data of your children (if applicable)

You will also need to upload a photo of yourself and your spouse and children (if applicable) that meets the high requirements of the U.S. authorities. These requirements are listed below.

Photos should not be older than 6 months.

Photos from previous lotteries should not be reused.

No copies of ID cards or passports

No glasses in the photo (even for those wearing glasses!) .

Only high quality color photos

Neutral, bright background

Front-facing photo, looking into the camera (no sideways!) .

Shoulders should be visible in the photo.

At least 600×600 pixels, JPEG file

The head must make up about 50% of the photo.

No hats or other headgear (headgear for religious reasons is tolerated if the face is visible from forehead to chin!)

Our Green Card Lottery Guide will walk you through all the steps of the application process in detail.

The Green Card Lottery Process

In our Just a Few Steps to a Green Card guide, you will find a detailed explanation of the green card lottery process. Summary: There are eight stages you will go through on your way to obtaining a green card.


Through American Dreams, you can register for the Green Card Lottery throughout the year. However, if you enter yourself on the U.S. authorities’ website, you only have four weeks between October and November.

Winner’s drawing and winner notification

🕑 Time frame. May to June of the following year. If you entered the lottery through American Dreams, we will send you a comprehensive winner’s packet.

Apply for a full green card through Form DS-260

🕑 Time frame: As soon as possible after receiving the winning notification. American Dream will help you complete the detailed forms and documents. We can also take care of the entire process for you.

Notice of interview appointment at KCC (Kentucky Consular Center)

🕑 Time frame: depends on case number (also: rank number), visible in the visa bulletin. Prior to your appointment at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy, you will need to undergo a medical examination by a medical examiner approved by the U.S. government.

Activation trip, when entering the U.S. for the first time

🕑 Time frame: must be no later than 6 months after the medical examination. There is no minimum length of stay for activation travel. During your activation trip to the U.S., you will receive a stamp (I-551 stamp) in your passport at a U.S. airport that identifies you as a legal green card holder. There is no minimum length of stay for your activation trip. If you wish, you may fly home as soon as you receive the stamp.

Receive your green card

🕑 Time frame: up to 6 months; anything is possible. However, after the I-551 stamp is placed in your passport, you will have all the rights of a green card holder. American Dream has a branch in the U.S. and – depending on your subscription rate – can handle this for you. You will then receive your green card directly to your home.

Moving to the U.S.

You did it! Your green card specialist will be happy to assist you with any questions you may have about living and working in the United States.

What a green card means for other members of your family

If you are granted a green card, your family members will also be granted a green card. This includes your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21. A green card application for family reunification is the most common form of immigration to the United States.

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If you are not married at the time you win your green card, you can still do this and then apply for a green card together.

Increasing Your Chances of Winning a Green Card

If you win, your family will also receive a green card, which allows you to use a neat trick: both spouses can apply at the same time. This doubles your chances and those of your family. The double chance for married couples even has the added benefit that the spouse gets a discount for participating.

Please note that each person participating in the green card lottery can only apply once per year. Therefore, the double chance is the only way to greatly increase your chances of obtaining a green card.

With a little patience and a competent expert on your side, you will soon be able to enjoy the benefits of a green card. Register directly for the upcoming Green Card Sweepstakes.

The team at American Dream will be happy to advise you. Also, check out our Green Card FAQ for more answers. Before you become one of the lucky winners, get inspired by our green card winner testimonials.