A green card gives immigrants the legal right to live, work, and study in the United States and, ultimately, become American citizens. Here, we have a selection of green card statistics that may surprise you. There are many assumptions made abound green cards and immigrants, and many of those assumptions are just not true. 

Here’s the thing:

A green card is issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and having this means you can live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. There are a number of ways of getting a green card. Some go through family, others through employment, and some use the lottery. Green card lottery stats tend to be some of the most surprising stats and facts out there. 

However, not everybody qualifies for a green card. Green card statistics show that the wait could be as long as 20 years, even if you do qualify. 

Stunning Green Card Facts (Editor’s Pick)

  • The DV program issues 50,000 immigrant visas annually, based on the results of a random drawing.
  • You must be eligible by country as well as by education or work experience in order to be granted a green card. 
  • The online registration period for the DV Program typically runs between October 1 and November 3 each year.
  • It is free to enter the lottery.

Green Card Statistics 2019 

1. The DV program issues 50,000 immigrant visas annually, based on the results of a random drawing.

US immigration statistics show that the DV program issues around 50,000 immigrant visas annually, based on the results of a random drawing. The visas tend to be apportioned among countries with “historically low rates of immigration to the US.”

More than 22.4 million people applied to the green card lottery in 2017. The first 50,000 to register after notification were the “winners” for that year. The reason for drawing more than 50,000 names is that not everyone selected will start the green-card application process, and many may not end up completing it. 

2. Diversity visas go to natives of selected countries in six geographic regions.

DV lottery statistics change each year because the list of countries is subject to change each year. The countries appear on the diversity visa entry instructions page. At the moment these countries are in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, plus South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. 

3. In 2017, the United States issued 179,049 H-1B visas.

The H1B statistics show that the US issued 179,049 visas in 2017. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

These workers tend to be highly skilled professionals in fields including engineering, technology, medicine, and higher education. 

There are three subcategories of H-1B visas:

  • The H-1B1 - a free trade agreement visa for specialty workers from Chile and Singapore. 
  • The H-1B2 - for specialists who will work on projects for the Department of Defense Cooperative Research and Development program. 
  • The H-1B3 - for fashion models of "distinguished merit and ability." 

4. The Green Card must be kept on your person at all times.

A permanent resident card (also known as the green card), will be issued to all permanent residents as proof they can live and work in the USA. Having this valid card on your person at all times is compulsory. 

If you lose your green card, you will need to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, as soon as possible. However, USCIS statistics show it can take up to six months to get your card, and this may be a problem if you are starting a new job. The best course of action in this case is to hire an immigration lawyer to ensure everything goes smoothly.

5. A visa does not guarantee admission to the US

Although there are many positive visa statistics, a visa approved by a consular officer in the traveler's home country does not guarantee admission to the United States. 

Officials from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), may deny a traveler permission to enter the United States for a number of reasons.

6. Visitor visas can be used for multiple trips to the US while the visa is valid.

A visitor can use their visa for multiple trips to the US while the visa is still valid, but CBP determines the length of the stay for each visit. The maximum length of stay per trip will usually be six months. The only way the traveler will not have to return home when the designated period ends is if they have had it extended by officials. 

7. According to DHS, the rate of suspected overstays for business travelers and international tourists was 1.33% in 2017.

Although many of the US legal immigration statistics are positive, people do overstay their welcome. 1.33% did so in 2017. That amounts to 701,900 travelers out of almost 52.7 million tourists and business travelers that year.

8. There were an estimated 11.7 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States as of 2012.

Unauthorized immigrants account for around 3.7% of the population and around 5.2% of the labor force. 

9. Less than half (46%) of all immigrants in the United States are Hispanic or Latino

One of the most surprising green card facts is that the majority of immigrants in the US are not Hispanic or Latino, like many people believe. 

  • One-fifth of all immigrants are non-Hispanic whites (19.2%)
  • About 8% are black.
  • Just over a quarter (26.3%) are Asian or of another race/ethnicity.

If you want a better idea, you can look at green card statistics by country. Looking carefully at green card lottery statistics by country will help you to see where the majority of immigrants are from and how diverse the immigrant pool is. 

10. There are almost as many immigrants in white-collar jobs (46%) as in all other occupations combined.

More than half of immigrants are holding down white-collar jobs. The perception that all immigrants work low wage jobs is inaccurate, even though many white-collar jobs don’t pay all that well. 

Around 46% of immigrants have at least some college education.

11. 20% of immigrants live below the poverty line, compared with 16% of native-born citizens.

While many immigrants are not poor, employment-based green card statistics suggest that 20% live below the poverty line. Nationally, and in many states, the income of immigrant families is not very different from that of non-immigrant families, although individual earnings are lower for immigrants overall. 

What’s surprising is the case of unauthorized immigrants whose household incomes are at least twice the poverty level, illegal immigration statistics reveal.

12. Since 2005, more than 200 million people from countries around the world have applied for the program.

Diversity lottery statistics show that over 200 million people from all over the world have applied for the program. 

Eight countries had at least a million applicants in 2016, accounting for more than half of the total: 

  • Ghana
  • Uzbekistan
  • Iran
  • Ukraine
  • Egypt
  • Nepal
  • Ethiopia
  • Sierra Leone

13. The US diversity lottery accounts for about 5% of the roughly 1 million people awarded green cards each year.

How many visas were issued in 2018? Around 1 million, like every other year. However, only 5% of those are from the diversity lottery. Green card approval statistics are actually lower at the moment than they have been in the past. 

14.The regional breakdown of where immigrants come from has changed over time

Green card application statistics prove that where immigrants come from has changed and will continue to change over time. 

When the diversity lottery first started in the fiscal year 1995, citizens of European countries, including those that were part of the former Soviet Union, received the largest number of diversity visas (about 24,000). 

In fiscal 2017, which ended on September 30, the largest number of visas went to citizens of African countries (about 19,000), while applicants from European countries (nearly 21,000) and from Asia (almost 8,000) received fewer visas.