Green Card Experts
Search Login Menu

What is the Green Card Lottery?

If you have decided to live in the USA, the Green Card Lottery is one of the best ways to get a permanent residence and work permit. Here's what to consider when participating in the lottery.

Definition of the Green Card Lottery

Every year, the Green Card Lottery enables 55,000 people worldwide to permanently live and work in the United States. Due to the nature of the lottery, people from all eligible countries have pretty good chances of getting a Green Card, provided that they manage the whole application process without errors.

The "Permanent Resident Card," as the Green Card is also called, grants the lucky winner almost all the rights that a US citizen has.

Take your chance to win a Green Card! Apply now

The history of the Green Card Lottery

People from everywhere should get a chance for a better life in the USA. However, very high immigration rates from specific regions, such as Mexico and China, have led to an imbalance between the different nationalities in the past.

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


The previous Diversity Visa Program called NP-5 Lottery was based on the 1986 Immigration and Control Act (IRCA), but only provided 5,000 visas per year which were only distributed among members of 36 nations

1990 - 1991:

10,000 GreenCards were issued under the new OP-1 program. In the following two years, the AA-1 program took place as an interim solution and already issued 40,000 visas.


The current Diversity Visa Program with 55,000 raffled GreenCards took place for the first time in 1994 and every year since then.


New conditions of participation: Each person may submit only one application per year. This is still true today:  Whoever submits more than one application is automatically disqualified. Also, in 1995, there were over a million disqualifications due to mistakes in the application and incorrect or missing information. 

If you don’t want to lose your chances, you should have your application thoroughly checked by an expert. The American Dream helps in this case as a reliable emigration advice.


The authority responsible for Green Card applications is no longer the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, but now the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC).


The mandatory written form for GreenCard applications has been abolished. As a result, the annual transport of tens of thousands of envelopes with original applications to the USA, which the team of The American Dream had taken over until then, was no longer necessary. 


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


Implementation of the new passport system. Since this policy change, only holders of a valid passport could qualify for the Green Card Lottery.


The passport rule of 2019 is eliminated. Starting in 2022, almost anyone will be able to sign up for the Green Card Lottery again. Learn how this came about and why it's good news.


Who can participate in the Green Card Lottery?

In general, anyone who was born in one of the currently eligible countries may participate in the Green Card Lottery if they meet the following requirements:

  • At least 12 years of formal primary and secondary schooling
  • At least two years of professional work experience (within the past five years) that required at least two years of training. This experience must have been gained within the last 5 years.

For more information on how to participate in the Green Card Lottery, please refer to the terms and conditions.

Which countries can’t participate in the DV Lottery?

To balance the mix of nationalities in the USA, the following countries are currently not eligible for the Green Card Lottery:

  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China (including Hong Kong SAR)
  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam

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

The same applies to people whose parents were only visiting the country of your birth. If you were born during a short trip and both of your parents were born in eligible countries, you can still participate.

No agency? Missed chances at the Green Card Lottery

A lottery sounds pretty easy at first. Nevertheless, millions of participants fail due to bureaucratic hurdles every year. Anyone who has seen the photo requirements knows about the technical and content-related pitfalls during the process. Not to mention the 70-plus page form you have to complete after your winner notification, which causes many to fail.

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

Infographic: Better Chances in the Green Card Lottery with The American Dream

How agencies can help you win a Green Card

To prevent errors and thus disqualification, thousands of US Fans rely on agencies like The American Dream. The experts in those agencies securely guide you through the process or – depending on your price plan – even do all the work for you if you get the premium service. Also, having an agency saves you from missing the tight 4-week-deadline the US government has set for applications.

If you would like to participate, please check 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:

  • Title
  • First name(s)
  • Last name
  • Date of birth
  • E-mail
  • Sex
  • Address
  • City and country of birth
  • Highest level of education
  • Personal data of your spouse (if applicable)
  • Personal data of your children (if applicable)

You also need to upload a photograph of yourself as well as your spouse and children (if applicable) that meets the high requirements of the US authorities. These are as follows:

  • Photos must not be older than 6 months.
  • Photos from previous lotteries should not be reused.
  • no copies of identity cards or passports
  • no glasses in the photo (even for spectacle wearers!)
  • only color photos in high quality
  • neutral, bright background
  • frontal view, look into the camera (not sideways!)
  • The shoulders should be visible in the photo.
  • at least 600x600 pixels, JPEG file
  • The head must take up about 50% of the photo.
  • no cap or other headgear (headgear for religious reasons is tolerated if the face is visible from the forehead to the chin!)

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

The procedure of the Green Card Lottery

You will find a detailed explanation of the Green Card Lottery process in our guide Get A Green Card In Just A Few Steps. Summary: you will go through eight phases on your way to your Green Card.

  1. Application
    With The American Dream, you can register for the Green Card Lottery all year round. However, if you participate on your own on the website of the US authorities, you only have four weeks between October and November.
  2. Winners’ draw and winner notification 
    🕑Time frame: May to June of the next year. If you have participated through The American Dream, we will send you a comprehensive winner's package.

  3. Official Green Card application through DS-260 form
    🕑Time frame: as soon as possible after the winner notification. The American Dream will help you complete detailed forms and documents. We can also take care of the whole process for you.
  4. Notification of an interview appointment by the KCC (Kentucky Consular Center)
    🕑Time frame: depending on the case number (also: rank number), visible in the Visa Bulletin. Before your appointment at the US Consulate or Embassy, you need to go through a medical examination by a US government-approved medical examiner.
  5. Activation Trip, the first entry into the USA
    🕑Time frame: must happen no later than six months after the medical examination. There is no minimum length of stay for your activation trip. On the activation trip to the USA, you will receive a stamp (I-551 Stamp) in your passport at the US airport, which identifies you as a legitimate GreenCard holder. There is no minimum length of stay for your activation journey. If you wish, you can fly home immediately after receiving the stamp.

  6. Receiving your Green Card
    🕑Time frame: up to six months; anything is possible. However, with the I-551 stamp in your passport, you will have all the rights of a Green Card holder. The American Dream has a branch office in the USA and – depending on your subscription rate – can handle this for you. You will then receive your GreenCard directly to your home.
  7. Moving to the USA
    You did it! Your Green Card experts will be happy to assist you with any questions about living and working in the USA.

Infographic: Green Card Lottery Process

Take your chance to win a Green Card! Apply now

What a Green Card means for the rest of the family

If you win a Green Card, your family members will receive a Green Card, too. This includes your spouse and any children under 21 years of age who are not married. Green Card applications for family reunions are the most common form of immigration to the United States.

If you are not yet married at the time of your Green Card winning, you can still do so and then apply for the Green Card together.

Increase your chances of winning a Green Card

The fact that your family will also receive a Green Card if you win allows you to use a clever trick: both spouses can apply at the same time. This doubles the chances for you and your family. The DoubleChance for married couples even has the advantage that the spouse receives a discount on their participation.

Please note that each participant in the Green Card Lottery may only apply once per year. The DoubleChance is, therefore, the only way to significantly increase your chances of getting a Green Card.

With a little patience and competent experts at your side, you will soon be able to enjoy the benefits of a Green Card. Register directly for the upcoming Green Card Lottery.

The team of The American Dream will be happy to advise you. Also, check out our Green Card FAQ to get more answers. Until you’re one of the lucky winners, get inspired by our Green Card Winner Testimonials.

Green Card Check
Apply now
Sign up for the newsletter & enjoy benefits!
Get a 5€ voucher for the Green Card Lottery!

I would like to receive The American Dream newsletter. I have read the privacy policy.