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Permanent Residence: Diversity Lottery

The Diversity Lottery is offered annually through the U.S. Department of State to determine eligibility for a limited number of Permanent Residence immigrant visas, specifically reserved for persons from areas with lower immigration rates. Simple but strict criteria must be met to enroll in the lottery program, which are established and announced prior to the application period each fall. Qualified foreign nationals, who are over the age of 18 and have at least a high school diploma (or equivalent), may enter the lottery from abroad or while are living in the U.S. in a temporary nonimmigrant status. To determine lottery selections, countries are grouped into regions, and each region is allocated a specific number of Permanent Residence applicants. The division of available numbers is not equal amongst the regions and is based on the number of U.S. immigrants from those countries over the previous 5 years. Once an individual is selected under the Diversity Lottery process, they must complete the Permanent Residence application process during the following fiscal year. All other eligibility requirements must be met at that time.

Current F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors are often hesitant to apply for the Diversity Lottery, fearing that it will contradict their Nonimmigrant Intent and limit their eligibility for a visa renewal during travel.  However, entry in the Diversity Lottery is NOT an application for U.S. Permanent Residency. For selected applicants, the lottery will only grant eligibility to apply for Permanent Residency in the future, which must be filed for separately during the appropriate fiscal year. Therefore, the lottery would not contradict your current nonimmigrant category and you could still indicate that you had not filed an Immigrant Visa Petition on the DS-160 visa application.