Popularly known as the green card lottery, approximately 50,000 – 55,000 visas are issued annually under this lottery program. The lottery is administered on an annual basis by the Department of State and conducted under the terms of Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Section 131 of the Immigration Act of 1990 amended INA 203 to provide for a new class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants.”
Applications are accepted during a one month application period each year, generally in October. Although many people do file the application for the Diversity Lottery without legal assistance, millions of applications are rejected with no notice to the applicant and are not included in the drawing. The reason being because of minor technical mistakes in the application or filing. There is no filing fee payable to the US government and the application and the filing is relatively straight forward, provided that the applicant understands the rules.
Many people prefer to hire an immigration lawyer to assist in filing their applications because the cost of doing so is relatively low and the process is fairly straightaway when professional advice is sought. As mentioned before the primary cause for rejection is technical errors in application or filing. If one is selected for the green card lottery, the spouse and minor children will generally be given Permanent Residence at the same time. The principal factor limiting eligibility is that the applicant must have at least completed high school education or its equivalent.