The US Department of State (DOS) has published instructions for the next round of the Diversity Visa (DV) lottery here.
The online entry registration period for the DV-2021 lottery is 12:00 pm (ET) on October 2, 2019, and will continue until 12:00 pm (ET) on November 5, 2019..
What is the Diversity Visa program?
Congress established the diversity visa program through the Immigration Act of 1990 in an effort to promote immigration from countries underrepresented in the United States. In the DOS's own words:
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, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (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 Diversity Visa program.
What is the screening process?
Diversity visa applicants undergo the same screening process as all intending permanent residents. This includes a background (criminal) and medical check and all are interviewed by a US government official before approval.
In addition, every DV entrant must have at least a high school education or its equivalent or have two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience.
President Trump has alleged that DV holders are "the worst of the worst." In 2017, he stated "[t]hey give us their worst people, put them in a bin... they're picking the worst of the worst..." (link) This is a gross mischaracterization of the DV program - and insulting to DV entrants like me. As mentioned, DV holders are screened before approval. The US government, not the DV holders' governments, decides who gets approved. Finally, DV holders apply voluntarily, they are not sent by anyone.
What countries are eligible?
It is easier to list the countries that are NOT eligible. For DV-2021, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply (because more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous five years):
Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.
People born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible.
Even if you were not born in one of the eligible countries, you might be able to claim that country if (a) your spouse is from that country, or (b) one of your parents was born in an eligible country. For full details of how this works, see the FAQs in the instruction document linked.
Do I need a lawyer to help?
No, you do not need a lawyer to help with the application. Please be very wary of anyone who suggests that they can influence your chances of success, or states that your chances are better if they "help" with the application. If you believe that someone is making such a false claim, please contact this resource:
As a "winner" of the lottery myself, 25 years ago, I encourage everyone who is eligible to apply as early as possible. The odds may be long -- but they are even longer if you don't apply. Good luck!
Elaine Martin has been practising US and global immigration law since 1997. She is an immigrant herself (from Ireland), so has a special understanding of the legal and emotional challenges involved in relocating to a new country.