Diversity Lottery for Fiscal Year 2020 (DV-2020)

by Joseph McKeown

It’s that time of year again! The Diversity Visa Lottery for fiscal year 2020 (DV-2020) is here. Online registration for the DV-2020 lottery begins on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at 12:00 noon, US Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), and concludes on Tuesday, November 6, 2018 at 12:00 noon, US Eastern Standard Time (EST). It is recommended that foreign nationals not wait until the end of the period to apply as heavy demand could cause delays on the website. Additionally, they should not submit multiple applications since doing so will result in disqualification.

Eligibility for DV Lottery

This lottery makes available 50,000 immigrant visas for individuals from countries with historically low immigration rates. According to the State Department, the diversity visas are distributed “among six geographic regions, and no single country may receive more than 7 percent of the available DVs in any one year.”

For this year, the DV lottery excludes foreign nationals from the following countries (because more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the US in the previous five years):

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) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible.

Applicants from eligible countries must submit an application during the entry period and must have:

  • at least a high school education or its equivalent, defined as successful completion of a 12-year course of formal elementary and secondary education; OR

  • two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform. The Department of State will use the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net Online database to determine qualifying work experience.

Applicants should use a new digital photograph or scan a recent (taken within the last six months) photograph with a digital scanner, as long as it conforms to the compositional and technical specifications in the instructions. Applicants can test photos through the photo validation link on the State Department website. Applicants should not submit an old photograph. If they submit the same photograph from a prior year’s entry, a photograph that has been manipulated, or a photograph that does not meet the specifications in the instructions, the application will be disqualified.  

How To Apply

Every year the State Department publishes a complete list of instructions on how to apply. There is also a helpful informational video. To encourage applications from all over the world, the State Department also has translations of the instructions in languages including Polish, Nepali, Portugues, and Bulgarian.

Foreign nationals should note that the DV lottery is one of the most commonly targeted visa categories for fraud. The State Department even has its own webpage devoted to this type of fraud. We’ve also written about scammers targeting DV applicants: “There are websites claiming they can make it easier to enter the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, or increase the chances of winning the lottery, for a fee. This is a scam.” A quick Google search of “diversity lottery” turns up a number of non .gov websites that applicants should be wary of however enticing. We also have some tips for those who believe they are the target of scammers. Importantly, applicants should note that registering for the DV lottery is free and that entries can only be made electronically at dvlottery.state.gov. The DV lottery instructions themselves caution:

We strongly encourage you to complete the entry form yourself, without a “visa consultant,” “visa agent,” or other facilitator who offers to help. If someone helps you, you should be present when your entry is prepared so you can provide the correct answers to the questions and retain the confirmation page and your unique confirmation number. It is extremely important that you retain your confirmation page and unique confirmation number. Without this information, you will not be able to access the online system that informs you of your entry status. Be wary if someone offers to keep this information for you.

To further protect themselves against fraud, foreign nationals should also note that while the State Department may send an email reminding entrants to check their status, they do not notify applicants via postal mail or email if they are selected in the lottery. Rather, applicants can only find out if they were selected by checking their status online through the Entrant Status Check. In order to check their status, applicants must enter their unique confirmation number—so, as the instructions say, they should make sure to keep this information in a safe place.

If Selected in Lottery

If foreign nationals “win” the lottery, they will be assigned a number or “priority date.” Priority dates will start moving forward on October 1 of the following immigration fiscal year. For example, if foreign nationals are selected in April 2019 for the 2020 fiscal year, their priority dates will start moving forward on October 1, 2019. If their cases are not fully completed by September 30, 2020, they will not be able to receive a Green Card through the DV lottery. Once selected, and once their priority dates are current, they will need to complete the steps outlined by the State Department. Thereafter, they would be scheduled for a consular interview when their priority date is current but only during the year for which they were selected. Foreign nationals may also be eligible to adjust status if they are already in the US.

While the prospect of winning the diversity lottery and obtaining a Green Card is understandably thrilling for many, before applying foreign nationals should carefully consider whether they even want a Green Card. Foreign nationals in possession of a Green Card must intend to permanently reside in the US and should not use the Green Card solely to visit the US. If foreign nationals do not intend to move to the US and make it their home, it is not necessary to have a Green Card. Moving to the US permanently has a lot of implications, including tax obligations, and foreign nationals who have “won” the lottery or who are considering applying for a Green Card should seek advice from an immigration attorney to understand all these implications. Best of luck to all applicants!