Dear Sophie: What is a diversity green card and how do I apply for one?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

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Dear Sophie,

I started a tech company about two years ago, and ever since I’ve dreamed of expanding my company in the United States.

I would love to have a green card. Someone mentioned that I should apply for a diversity green card. Would you please provide me with more details about it and how to apply?

— Technical in Tanzania

Dear Technical,

As a startup founder from Tanzania, you have several immigration options available to you, including the Diversity Immigrant Visa (green card) Program.

My law partner, Anita Koumriqian, and I recently discussed the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) on a podcast episode. Take a listen for how to apply and tips for applying. Each year, the U.S. Department of State, which oversees the DV Program, reserves 50,000 green cards for individuals born in countries that have low rates of immigration to the United States. The State Department publishes instructions each year, which includes the countries whose natives are eligible to register for the annual diversity lottery. Here is the latest version.

You must register online in the fall — usually from early October through early November — for the annual random lottery by completing the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form (DS-5501). There is no cost to register for the lottery, but be aware that you will be automatically disqualified if you register yourself more than once, and incomplete forms will not be accepted.

Once you complete the online registration form, you will get a confirmation number. Do not lose this number! It is the only way to access the online system that will tell you whether you were selected in the lottery and are eligible to submit a green card application. In May, registrants can log into the online system to find out whether they’ve been selected. No notification will be sent by email or snail mail; checking online by entering your confirmation code is the only way to find out. After you enter your confirmation code online, you will receive a diversity visa number, which you will use to determine when you can file your green card application.

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