What are the odds of winning a green card? To answer this question with mathematical precision we need to divide the number of members of your continent (group of countries) in the year of the draw by the number of immigrant visas allotted to your continent (group of countries). At the time of the draw, it is impossible to guess how many people will participate in the current year. Consequently, it is impossible to calculate the exact probability of winning.
To visualize the chances of winning this free lottery, let’s compare the odds with other lotteries where people pay money to play. Let’s imagine that every person on the planet participates in the green card lottery. In this example the odds of an individual participant to win a green card would be 28 times greater than the odds of winning the lottery “6 out of 36,” or 2510 times better than of winning a jackpot of the most popular American lottery “Mega Millions.” Wikipedia, without citing a source, states that from 2007 to 2012, a chance of winning a green card for a participant from Europe on average was about 1.75%.
One should understand that even if one participates in the lottery every year, the chances to win do not increase. In each case, every year, the probability of winning is 50 percent, that is, you either win or you do not. Some people can double or even triple their chances of winning. If a participant is married and plays the lottery with the spouse, the chances to win in a particular year double. In a family with children under 17 years old (assuming that by the age of 17 the child has not yet finished secondary school), the odds of winning for every child double if both of the child’s parents participate in the lottery. The chances of a child of 17 to 21 years (if the child is not married) triple – since at the time of drawing the child has already graduated from High school, he or she may participate in the lottery, and since the child is under 21 – he/she wins with the parents.
The author of this article has filled out green card lottery applications every year for a different number of people and the results have been unpredictable: one year a few people out of a hundred won, another year – several out of ten, and yet another year – no one out of several hundred. The author often heard stories from people who came to the States as lottery winners. Many have said that they filled out the applications themselves or with someone’s help, that they played for the first time and did not expect to win. So, to make a conclusion, there is no point in calculating the exact probability of winning – one should participate in the lottery every year together with one’s family.