I’m Undocumented in the US. Can I apply for the Green Card Lottery?


Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for a Green Card through the Green Card Lottery. Although they may be able to apply during the registration period, they will eventually be disqualified when they apply for a visa.

Undocumented immigrants are people who are in the United States without proper immigration documents justifying their presence in the country.

There are two general varieties of undocumented immigrants:

  • Those who entered the United States without first obtaining a visa and
  • Those who entered the U.S. with a visa, but that document expired before they left the country.

For more information see our blog about what undocumented status is.

How the Green Card Lottery Works

The Green Card Lottery is an annual Green Card giveaway designed to diversify the numbers of immigrants coming to the U.S.

A Green Card is a type of visa that allows a person to come to the United States to live and work for as long as they want. Certain conditions must be met to maintain this status, however.

Green Card holders can eventually apply for citizenship. Citizenship is the ultimate goal for many Green Card holders in the U.S. and the restrictions that apply to Green Cards are non-existent with full citizenship.

Most people who apply for the Green Card Lottery do so outside of the United States through a U.S. consulate or embassy.

Suggested Pathway of Immigration

There is a general pathway that the United States government prefers immigrants to take on their way to the United States. Variation from this pathway often leads to the accumulation of unlawful presence.

Unlawful presence and undocumented status are linked together (the first being the act, the second being the status). With unlawful presence it makes it much more difficult to apply for immigration benefits in the U.S.

Below is a brief summary of the steps to immigration that the U.S. prefers:

  1. Application for a temporary visa
  2. Immigrant leaves the U.S. to apply for more permanent immigrant arrangements
  3. Application for a Green Card in the United States
  4. Move to the U.S.
  5. Apply for citizenship after statutory period of time.

Potential changes in Immigration Law

Recent talks and dealings in Washington, D.C have heralded the possibility of a dramatic change in immigration policy in the United States.

Much of the legislation in discussion has been focused on a pathway to permanent residency and a green card for undocumented immigrants already in the U.S.

This means that within the next couple of years there could be a very serious shift in how undocumented immigrants are handled in the immigration system.

For more information how the legislation will affect the Green Card Lottery, please see our blog on the Immigration Reform.