Green Card Lottery Winning Chances


Thinking of entering the US Green Card lottery? Congratulations, you may be one step closer to getting permanent residency in the US! How does the Green Card lottery work? What are your chances of winning? Read all below.


What Is a Green Card?

A Green Card, or permanent residency visa, gives you the right to live and work in the US indefinitely. You can also bring your spouse and children with you to the US.

A Green Card gives you the same rights as an American citizen, the only difference being that you can’t run for office and you can’t apply for certain jobs that require that you are a citizen. You can also be deported if you break the law, or don’t file your taxes.


What Is the Green Card Lottery?

The Green Card Lottery is a lottery held yearly by the US government, where people from various countries can enter to win a Green Card. It’s free to enter — all you have to do is upload basic information about yourself and a photo that adheres to the guidelines. You apply here: Remember to save your entry number so that you can check to see if you’ve won later.


What Are the Requirements for Entering the Green Card Lottery?

There are very few requirements for entering the Green Card lottery. You need to be of age, you have to have a high school diploma or some form of work experience, have no criminal record and be of good health (this is only checked if you win) and you have to be born (your citizenship doesn’t matter) in of one of the eligible countries for that year’s draw (or you can apply using the country your spouse was born in).

There are some countries that are ineligible because they sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the US in the past five years. Note that asylum seekers and refugees aren’t counted as immigrants in this case.


Does Your Chance of Winning Depend on What Country You Come from?

Your chances to win a Green Card depends on what region you come from as there are a different number of Green Cards available to different regions.

Currently “the visas are distributed among six regions: Africa, Asia, Europe (Turkey, Cyprus and all countries in the former Soviet Union are allocated to Europe, even though some of them are geographically entirely in Asia), Latin America (Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America), North America (consisting only of Canada and the Bahamas), and Oceania.” (1)

If a region sent less than 1/6th of the total number of immigrants to the US in the past six years, it’s counted as a “low-admission region.” “The proportion of diversity visas given to the low-admission group is set as the proportion of recent immigrants from the high-admission group.” (1) The visas are also handed out in proportion to the population of an area. That means you have a higher chance of getting a Green Card if you come from a low-admission region, no matter the size of the population.

The visas are handed out randomly to the different countries within the one region (i.e. by chance depending on the applicants drawn as a winner), but no country may receive more than 7% of the total visas.


What Are Your Chances of Winning?

The amount of people entering the Green Card lottery every year varies — in 2007 it was about 9M people, in 2012 19M, and in 2015 14M.

Each year 50,000 people win a visa (about 125,000 people are drawn every year, as about half either fail to follow through with their application once they’ve won or don’t meet the immigration requirements).

If there are fewer people applying in one region, then, of course, your chances go up in that region. While you cannot know how many people will apply until the stats come in from that year’s lottery, in general, you’ll have the highest chance if you’re from Oceania.


How Do You Increase Your Chances of Winning?

You can’t affect the Green Card lottery, nor can you enter more than once per year (you’ll be disqualified if you try), but you can enter your spouse, as well as yourself if you are married. If your spouse wins s/he is allowed to bring his/her spouse (i.e. you) and any children under 21.

Someone who wins the Green Card lottery may also sponsor their family to immigrate to the US, meaning that your parents could enter and sponsor you if they win, or your children, if over 21 could do the same.

As you may enter either with the country you, or your spouse, were born in, you could choose their country of origin if they are from a region where fewer people tend to apply, such as Oceania.


How Do You Know if You’ve Won?

You need to check if you’ve won online on the same site where you registered for the lottery ( Remember that you will need your entry number.

You can usually check in May the year following when you applied (i.e. if you applied in Oct/Nov 2020, you can check your status in May 2021).

As mentioned previously, there are more names drawn than there are visas available because some people won’t follow through with applying for a visa, while others who do apply won’t meet the requirements.

This means that even though it says you didn’t win when you can first check, you should still check later in the year as more spots will open up and therefore more names will be announced.


What Should You Do if You Win?

If you’ve won the lottery it means you can apply for a Green Card. There will be instructions for you to do so, but in short, it involves filling in various forms, proving you are healthy, showing you have no criminal record, etc.

There will be a filing fee when you hand in the paperwork to the US government as well. If you like you can hire a lawyer to ensure you fill everything correctly and provide the correct paperwork.


What Should You Do if You Don’t Win?

If you don’t win, apply again! There’s nothing stopping you from applying the next year. Also, there are other ways of getting visas to the US, be it for studying, or working. If your dream is to live in the US, then consider all options available to you.