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naturalization processWhen the Immigration Act of 1990 was created, one important facet of that legislation became — and still is — one of the most essential parts of immigration laws and naturalization processes in the U.S. It is called the Diversity Visa Lottery, and it allows 55,000 immigrants — selected at random from countries with low immigration rates to the U.S. — to enter the U.S. legally.

This lottery, also commonly called the “Green Card Lottery” or “DV Lottery,” is a way to bring in immigrants that have not already migrated to the U.S. illegally and settled down, or who have any permanent residence visa through family immigration laws or business immigration laws.

The countries from which immigrants may be eligible to participate in the DV Lottery are different each year; the U.S. State Department looks at immigration trends from the past five years to determine which countries are eligible and which are excluded. If there have been more than 50,000 immigrants from one country within the past five years, that country (and any immigrants wishing to come to the U.S.) are excluded from the DV Lottery.

Additional requirements under this naturalization process include either a high school diploma or two years of work experience, within the past five years, in a skilled occupation that requires at least two years of prior training. Additionally, immigrants who are already living illegally within the U.S. borders are highly encouraged not to apply, because current deportation laws allow law enforcement officials to gather the information collected in the DV Lottery applications (and possibly deport illegal immigrants).

Despite these restrictions, the DV Lottery has provided a safe and welcoming home for many immigrants who would otherwise never be able to afford to leave their countries. The application process is free, and because the “winners” are selected at random, everyone has a fair chance to “win.” The immigrants who are part of the DV Lottery make up a huge portion of the one million green cards that are given out by the U.S. government to immigrants each year, allowing the country to house about 20% of the world’s immigrant population.

It certainly may seem like an unnecessarily complicated process to some Americans, but for thousands of immigrants, the DV Lottery is their one chance to find a new home.