Today, over 14 million people are finding out if they won the 2018 U.S. green card lottery, also known as the diversity visa lottery. Only about 50,000 people will win a green card, here’s what they needed to qualify for the lottery in the first place.
The lottery is free to enter, but not all countries are eligible, those who want to enter the lottery must check if their country has made the eligible list. Some countries that aren’t eligible for this year’s lottery include mainland China, India, Nigeria, Canada, and Mexico. However, you have two ways to get around your country being ineligible: your spouse was born in an eligible country and you list them on your application and enter the U.S. together or one of your were not residents of an ineligible country at the time of your birth.
In addition to being from a qualifying country, you need one of the following to even enter the lottery:
- A high school degree in a program that is comparable to the United States’ system.
- Two years work experience in the past five years and your work experience must be in a job that the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*NET system categorizes as Zone 4 or 5 and has a Specific Vocational Preparation rating of 7.0 or higher.
If that sounds confusing, now imagine that figuring out if you qualify is what stands between you and being able to work towards a better life for yourself and your family. The State Department lays out all the qualifications in this PDF, which at a quick glance is quite in-depth. There are a lot of hoops to jump through to even apply for this lottery and if you make mistakes, you’ll disqualify yourself (like listing that you’re from an ineligible country).
Winners can bring their immediate family with them to the U.S. and must move within six months after finding out they’ve won. Winning the lottery is just the first (but big) step to being able to live and work in the U.S.—you then have to provide the required paperwork and go through an interview at your local U.S. embassy or consulate.
Even entering the green card lottery takes a huge amount of effort, so why are people so motivated to go through the trouble? Well, a green card gives you quite a few benefits if you want to legally live and work in the U.S.:
- Live permanently in the United States
- Work legally at most jobs (some are limited to U.S. citizens for security reasons)
- Be protected by federal, state, and local laws
There are some rules you have to follow as a green card holder, including paying your taxes and obeying laws. If you’re a male between ages 18 and 25, you must also register with the Selective Service (aka the draft). The process to get a green card through this lottery is tough and full of paperwork and stress, but if you get through and win, you get a chance at a whole new life.