The State Department announced that it will begin accepting applications for the FY 2018 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program—commonly called the diversity visa (DV) lottery—beginning Tuesday, October 4, 2016. Applicants who are selected and approved may apply for a green card starting on October 1, 2018.

Each year, the State Department randomly selects 50,000 immigrant visa applications from a pool of foreign national applicants who were born in certain countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. The State Department will accept diversity visa applications for FY 2018 beginning on Tuesday, October 4, until Monday, November 7.

Applicants who are selected in the lottery must meet certain requirements before becoming eligible to apply for lawful permanent residency (i.e., apply for a green card).

First, applicants must be born in countries that have historically low immigration rates. Individuals born in the following countries are ineligible to apply for a DV for fiscal year 2018: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born**), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories and Vietnam. Most notably, nationals of Ecuador are eligible to apply in this year’s diversity visa lottery program, a change from being ineligible in years past. Those not born in an eligible country may still be able to apply for a DV through a spouse (if that spouse was born in an eligible country) or, in certain circumstances, through a parent.

Secondly, each DV applicant must have at least a high school education or its equivalent or, alternatively, have two years of work experience in a position that requires at least two years of education, training or experience to perform. The State Department encourages applicants to avoid procrastination in applying, as heavy demand in their application system may cause delays or other technical errors. Applicants will be able to check if they were selected in the randomized lottery starting May 2, 2017.

Employers, including franchisors and franchisees, are often interested in having a qualifying employee apply for a diversity visa in order to avoid costly traditional employment-based green card applications (such as first conducting mandatory advertisements in connection with a PERM filing with the Department of Labor). Both employers who encourage their foreign employees to apply, as well as any other prospective individual applicants, should be mindful of complex requirements in order to avoid rejection, denial or other avoidable issues throughout the diversity visa application process.

**Note: Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible.

For more information, please contact Michael W. Stevenson, who contributed this post, or any member of Fox Rothschild’s Immigration Practice.