The annual DV green card lottery (DV-2011) begins on October 2, and concludes on November 30, 2009. As in previous years, applications can only be lodged electronically via Form DS-5501, available only through the State Department’s DV website at

The 50,000 green cards on offer for fiscal year 2011 are not – repeat, not – available to undocumented residents of the U.S. It’s quite usual around this time of year for immigration-related agencies and what not to offer services “guaranteeing” success in the lottery – some of the come-ons are particularly enticing, promising results no matter what the circumstances.

But don’t be fooled by such words. An undocumented resident of the U.S. should not apply for the lottery because the chances of success, should the application actually be selected, are nil. The green cards would need to be processed at a U.S. consular post abroad, and the undocumented applicant would be subject to the three or 10-year bar to entering the U.S. that is triggered when returning to the country.

For those who are either legal residents of the U.S., or still living in Ireland, the lottery is definitely something to be pursued – though, of course, the chances of success are miniscule, given the millions of people from around the globe who apply for one of the coveted green cards.

Citizens of most countries are eligible, with some exceptions – Brazil, Canada, China (mainland born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland), and Vietnam.

Each applicant is permitted only one entry– the electronic application system was implemented primarily to ensure that all entrants adhered to this rule. Those submitting more than one entry will be disqualified. Basic biographic information must be provided, and the applicant must meet the education/work requirement – either completion of the equivalent of a high school degree, or two years of work experience within the past five years in a field requiring at least two years of training.

The application process requires an applicant photograph, and photos for any accompanying family member. The photo entry requirements are quite precise, so for those who are not tech savvy, it would be wise to make use of an agency providing application assistance, such as one of the Irish centers (Emerald Isle in Queens at 718-478-5502; Aisling Irish in Yonkers, 914-237-5121. Both groups would undoubtedly have referrals for those not living in the vicinity.)

Winning applicants can expect to be notified by mail between May of July of next year, with interviews set to begin on October 1 of 2010.   All winners will be selected at random after the close of the entry period. All DV-2010 green cards must be distributed by September 30, 2010, the end of the U.S. fiscal year.

Irish applicants have never had much success in the DV lottery, mostly because the countries winning the most green cards are larger and would have many more applicants. For DV-2009 only 132 Irish natives were selected; 35 lucky Northern Irish winners were notified. In previous years the figures were much the same.

If you’re legal and looking for a green card – best of luck. If you’re undocumented, don’t think about applying.

Detailed instructions will soon be available on the aforementioned State Department website.