The registration period for the Diversity Immigrant Visa program 2018 (DV-2018) will begin shortly, on Oct 4, 12pm EDT.

How exactly is the lottery green card different from "normal" green cards? What exactly is the benefit of the program?

  1. To the best of my knowledge, a non-US citizen would be able to obtain a US working visa if she happened to enter into a work contract with an US-based company.

  2. On the other hand, if some non-US citizen would win a green card in the "lottery" and would therefore be allowed to live and work in the US, she would still need to find a job in the US in order to make a living (on a permanent basis).

This leaves me with the impression that for a non-US citizen to be able to live in the US, it mainly depends on an employer's choice to hire that person or not.

It makes me wonder which practical benefits the "lottery" green card provides from the point of view of an (potential) expat who would like to live and work in the US.

  • 1
    I am not sure I follow your question. What do you mean by "normal" green cards? And why would you expect anything different from this program than any other means of obtaining one?
    – Karlson
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 17:18
  • @Karlson By "normal green card" I meant a permanent resident card (aka "green card") obtained through a regular application process, based on an employment visa. If this is the usual route and there also exists a lottery for winning a green card, I would assume that there is something about the "lottery green card" which simplifies the process for the employee.
    – tmh
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 18:18
  • 2
    @tmh "simplifies the process for the employee": a lottery applicant need not be an employee (and usually isn't). For example, I knew a lottery winner who was an opera singer. She moved to the US and began a freelance music career. The bar to do that through a visa route is very high, but with a lottery green card, anyone can have a go at it.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 18:43
  • 2
    @tmh I also know a guy in Rwanda who works as a driver. If he wins the lottery, he can move to the US and seek a career driving taxis, buses, and/or trucks. I don't think there's any visa route that would permit this.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 18:46
  • @tmh There are many paths to Green Card and not all of them include employment or investment based paths. The only benefit that Diversity Lottery has is time to obtain. Once you got it you're just as anyone else.
    – Karlson
    Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 4:06

1 Answer 1


To get a working visa, a prospective employee has to find a job with an employer that meets the qualifications for visa sponsorship. After some years in the working visa status, the employee may become eligible to apply for permanent residence. In other words, someone who comes on an H-1B visa, for exmaple, cannot get a green card before working in the US for several years.

With the green card lottery, once an applicant wins the lottery and passes the approval process, an immigrant visa is issued. Upon entering the US, the immigrant immediately becomes a permanent resident. The permanent resident can apply for any job, without burdening the employer with requirements of sponsorship. This makes the permanent resident a more desirable employee and therefore gives a better position in the job market. It also gives access to a larger segment of the job market: it allows the permanent resident to apply for jobs that would not be possible with a working visa.

A lottery green card is no different from a "normal" green card, once you have it. But a lottery visa is a much more certain -- and shorter -- path to a green card than the path through a working visa.

On the other hand, for someone with good skills in an appropriate line of work, it will be more probable to find an employer willing to sponsor for a work visa than it will be to win the green card lottery. Furthermore, many people are completely ineligible for the green card lottery because they were born in the "wrong" country.

Finally, your question seems to oppose lottery green cards to work-based green cards, but there are other ways of getting a green card to consider, such as family-sponsored immigration and asylum. These routes will generally have a higher probability for success, for those who qualify, than either employer sponsorship or the lottery.

  • Thank you for your insightful answer. Could you elaborate on what requirements an employer has to meet if they would want to sponsor their employee, and which jobs are not possible with a working visa?
    – tmh
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 18:16
  • 2
    @tmh Available jobs: I don't know all of the working visas, but, for example, for an H-1B, the job must require a bachelor's degree unless the job is fashion modeling. I doubt, for example, that there is a way to bring a waiter or waitress to the US on a working visa (other than temporary working visas that cannot lead to a green card). The employer must be able to bear the cost of sponsorship, which is a few thousand dollars, probably in addition to lawyer's fees. Small businesses won't want to do that. See forbes.com/sites/quora/2014/04/07/…
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 18:30
  • The employer has to prove to the government that he tried and cannot find equivalently qualified American workers. That is a significant hurdle.
    – Aganju
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 20:13
  • 1
    @Aganju from what I've read lately, this requirement is not enforced very strictly. There have been cases reported in the news where US workers have been required to train their H-1B replacements before being fired. Because of the media attention, of course, there may be changes to the enforcement regime in the future. (Also, as you probably know, "American workers" means those with authorization to work in the US, not necessarily US citizens.)
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 20:14
  • 1
    @Aganju - the employer doesn't actually have to prove it (unless he gets audited) - he just has to state it on the application.
    – brhans
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 15:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.