There are two processes by USCIS that are commonly referred to as "lotteries":

  • Diversity Visa Program (popularly know as "greencard lottery")
  • H-1B "lottery" (in case of applications' number exceeding limit)

Is there any indication, that these are actually lotteries, as in application chosen at random, rather than through some obscure selection process?

3 Answers 3


These are in fact random selections. DV selections of 2012 have been famously voided because it was discovered that the selection was not truly random because of a software bug.

As to H1b - these are not legally required to be random selections, but since the demand is overwhelming the quota is frequently met before the USCIS has a chance to order the submissions. Since it would not be fair to deny a petition just because the Fedex delivery man stacked down the box, when the amount of submissions exceeds all the available quotas in a very short time (I think they set it to the first business week of April), they select randomly from all the files that were submitted at that time.


What about the fact that it's called a lottery in numerous official documents? This page about the DV program from the department of Homeland Security indicates that

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available annually, drawn from random selection among all entries to individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

The State department's own description includes similar language.

Of course, if you are inclined to distrust the US government, this might not fully convince you but then nothing they can say really would ;-) Otherwise all this seems like a pretty strong indication.

  • In addition, if it's not a lottery, are they reading through the thousands of applications and then choosing 50,000 people that they like for some reason? Apr 1, 2014 at 0:28
  • 1
    Is the DV visa not done away with yet ? Apr 1, 2014 at 7:37
  • what about H1b lottery?
    – vartec
    Apr 1, 2014 at 8:42
  • @jeremy they only start reading the files when the selection is over, and only the files selected are being read (more precisely - the files selected for which an actual application was later filed).
    – littleadv
    Apr 1, 2014 at 9:22
  • @littleadv - that was my point. If there was a conspiracy, it would be incredibly hard work. But if you believe there's a conspiracy, you don't believe them when they say that they read the files afterwards. Apr 1, 2014 at 15:39

I do believe fermely that the DV lottery is not random, they only choose the politically minorities of each country. you can verify this your self , see what is the minorities opposing the system in your country and see how many from that region are winning the Lottery year after year.

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