How to Enter the Green Card Lottery

In our last article we covered the mechanics of the 2018 green card lottery, including the timeframe and process for submitting an entry.  The 2018 lottery season begins in October, so it is time to prepare an application if you want to submit an entry to obtain a US Permanent Resident Card.

What is a Green Card?

A green card is a permanent US immigration visa, without any time limit or expiration date.  It allows you to work and live in the US without any type of work permit non-immigrant visa.  You will have the same rights as a US citizen, except the right to vote.

For this reason, the green card is a much sought after immigration status, but can be difficult to obtain through normal sponsorship channels.  The lottery can give you at least a chance to be selected each year.

What is the Purpose of the Lottery?

The overall purpose of the green card lottery is to encourage foreign nationals to immigrate to the US, if they come from countries with low immigration numbers.  Because there are so many entries to the lottery, the odds of being selected are less than 1%, but still worth 15 minutes to fill out an application, and there is no fee to pay.

Green Card Eligibility Criteria

There is no minimum age limit for green cards, but some of the requirements imply the applicant will need to be at least 18 years old.  The criteria to be eligible to receive a green card is as follows:

  1. High school diploma or equivalent (12 years of elementary and secondary education), or
  2. Minimum two years of work experience (within the past five years) that required training and/or experience
  3. Citizen of an eligible country: There are six eligible regions for green card applicants: Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania and Latin America/Caribbean.

However not every country in those regions falls within the eligibility criteria for a green card.  Excluded countries for this year’s lottery 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) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

So, if you are a citizen of those countries listed above, your application will be rejected for the lottery.

Additional Eligibility Criteria

There are two other ‘stealth’ criteria for obtaining a green card through the lottery.  The first is that you have to show that you can support yourself financially to live in the country.  This could be difficult if you are planning to find employment when you arrive, and do not have sufficient money saved.  Second, you have to show that you are not under “inadmissible” status to enter the country, such as having a criminal record or posing a security risk.

The other thing to know is that each year more entries ‘win’ the lottery than the 50,000 green cards available, so you should check your entry status as soon as it becomes available online in May, or you might lose your chance if you are a lucky winner.

The Effect of Other Visas or Immigration Status on the Green Card Lottery

Some applicants are concerned that if they are working in the US already on a work visa such as the H1B, then they will not be eligible for the lottery.  However, having an H1B or other visa will not affect your ability to enter the lottery.

Interestingly, foreign nationals that want to work in the US often complain about the H1B lottery process and how only one out of three applicants are given visas.  But compared to the green card lottery, the H1B lottery appears generous, granting 85,000 H1B visas to around 250,000 applicants.  In contrast, the green card lottery awards only 50,000 visas to over 10 million applicants!

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  • September 29th, 2016
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3 thoughts on “How to Enter the Green Card Lottery”

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