The Diversity Visa Lottery Program Many American Leaders Want to End

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The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available annually, drawn from random selection among all entries to individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The DV Program is administered by the U.S. Department of State. Most lottery winners reside outside the United States and immigrate through consular processing and issuance of an immigrant visa. There are, however, a small number of lottery winners each year who, at the time of “winning the lottery,” are residing in the United States in a nonimmigrant or other legal status. For these winners residing inside the United States, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processes adjustment of status applications.

The Diversity Visa Process

Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for a class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants,” from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. A limited number of visas are available each fiscal year. The DVs are distributed among six geographic regions and no single country may receive more than 7 percent of the available DVs in any one year.



DVs are intended to provide an immigration opportunity for persons who are not from “high admission” countries. U.S. law defines “high admission countries” as those from which a total of 50,000 persons in the family-sponsored and employment-based visa categories immigrated to the United States during the previous five years. Each year, USCIS counts the family and employment immigrant admission and adjustment of status numbers for the previous five years to identify the countries that are considered “high admission” and whose natives will therefore be ineligible for the annual DV Program. Since USCIS makes this calculation annually, the list of countries whose natives are eligible or not eligible may change from one year to the next.

Submit an entry. There is a limited period of time during which you can register for the DV Program during each fiscal year. Each year, the Department of State publishes detailed instructions for entering the DV Program. These instructions include the dates of the registration period during which you will be able to enter. All entries must be submitted electronically on the Electronic Diversity Visa (E-DV) website at during the specified registration period. No late entries or paper entries are accepted.The law allows only one entry by or for each person during each registration period. The Department of State uses sophisticated technology to detect multiple entries. If you submit more than one entry you will be disqualified. After you submit a complete entry, you will see a confirmation screen containing your name and a unique confirmation number. Print this confirmation screen for your records. It is extremely important that you retain your confirmation number. It is the only way you can check the status of your entry, and you will need it to obtain further instructions or schedule an interview for a visa if you are selected.

There is no cost to register for the DV Program. You are strongly encouraged to complete the entry form yourself, without a visa consultant, visa agent or other facilitator who offers to help. If somebody else helps you, you should be present when your entry is prepared so that you can provide the correct answers to the questions and retain the confirmation page and your unique confirmation number.


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Selection of applicants. Each year, the Department of State conducts a random selection of DV Program applicants, based on allocations of available visas in each region and country, from all registered entries. On or about May 15, information on the entrant status check on the Electronic Diversity Visa (E-DV) website is updated to inform all entrants if their online registration was selected or not. You will need to enter your confirmation number to check your entry status. If you have lost your confirmation number, you will not be able to check the status of your entry. We will not be able to resend the confirmation number to you.

Entrants in the Diversity Visa 2018 program were able to check the status of their entries on the E-DV website starting at noon (EDT) May 2, 2017.

Entrants in the Diversity Visa 2019 program may check the status of their entries on the E-DV website from May 15, 2018 through Sept. 30, 2019. Iana Darlington Jordan Benjamin 


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Iana D.J. Benjamin

Iana Darlington Jordan Benjamin is a primary shareholder of Darlington Jordan Law P.A. Previously, Benjamin clerked for U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, senior member of the House judiciary committee. She also interned for President Bill Clinton. Benjamin now handles a full range of civil cases. Her primary practice areas are immigration law, family law, and wills and trusts. Benjamin is a member of The Jacksonville Bar Association, Daniel Webster Perkins Bar Association, the Orange County Bar Association, and is a member of the Florida Coastal School of Law Alumni board of directors.

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