America’s DV Lottery vs Canada’s Express Entry

If you’ve started to look into your immigration options for 2021, you may have come across two very popular choices; Canada’s Express Entry system and America’s DV Lottery or the U.S. green card lottery, as it is more commonly known.

Both have given newcomers the opportunity to start anew in their respective countries, however, there are vast differences between the two, not only in the application process but in the likelihood of achieving success.

Every year millions of people around the world apply to migrate to a new country. According to the World Economic Forum, there are approximately 272 million immigrants worldwide, most of whom have chosen to emigrate to find jobs as well as due to other challenges faced in their home countries such as conflict, violence, and climate change.

As shown below, most immigrants chose the U.S. as their destination of choice whilst Canada made the top 8th place globally for international migrants to move to in 2019.

top destinations and origins of immigrants in 2019 | DV Lottery

Source: We Forum

So if you’re stuck between making a choice between moving to Canada or the U.S., keep reading to find out more about America’s DV Lottery immigration program as well as Canada’s ever-popular Express Entry system and discover which option will be best suited to your unique requirements and needs.

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DV Lottery vs Express Entry

blonde women looking at fork in road | US DV lottery vs Canada Express Entry

What is the US Diversity Visa Lottery?

The Diversity Visa Program, aka “Green Card Lottery” or “DV Lottery” as it is more commonly known, permits up to 55,000 people from under-represented nations to apply for immigrant visas or green cards. The program was created in 1994 and the selection process is random, with about 10 to 12 million people entering globally every year.

What Are the Requirements for the Green Card Lottery?

There are two main requirements that need to be met to qualify for the US DV Lottery:

  1. Qualifying Country of Birth/Nationality; and
  2. Qualifying Level of Education

Nationalities Permitted to Apply

America is an extremely popular destination for immigrants and because there are so many applications received every year, the U.S. Government has decided to exclude applicants, who are from the following countries, from applying through the DV Program:

List of Excluded Countries
  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China (including Hong Kong SAR)
  • Columbia
  • Dominican Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland and its dependant territories
  • Vietnam

There are also two countries that may qualify provided the applicants meet one of the following requirements:

  • Their spouses were born in an eligible country; or
  • Their parents (both born outside an excluded country) were temporary residents of an excluded or non-eligible country.

These two countries are:

Qualifying Countries with Additional Requirements
  • Macau SAR
  • Taiwan

What Are the Benefits of America’s DV Lottery?

The main benefits are that if you register and win the lottery you will be given the chance to apply for your U.S. green card which, if successful in your application, will allow you to live and work permanently in the United States. There are also not many requirements to qualify for this immigration program. Whether or not you are successful will come down to two things: whether or not you were born in a qualifying country and sheer luck.

Another benefit is that your application is free. If you and your spouse qualify it is a good idea for both of you to apply as the other may be eligible to join you in America as a derivative spouse.

The Down Side

The lottery only takes place once a year. This means that if you miss the deadline you will have to wait an entire year before you can apply again. The 2021 registration deadline was between October 2, 2019, and November 5, 2019. This means that you will have to apply to immigrate to the U.S. way in advance. Applications to move to the States in 2021 have also closed, with registration dates falling between October 7, 2020, and November 10, 2020. Applicants will then have approximately six months to submit their confirmation information. Essentially, in order to apply to immigrate to America in 2023, you will have to submit your application later this year.

Spots are also limited. There are only 50,000 immigrant visas available each year which means that as soon as the lottery opens it’s best to get your application in as soon as possible. As most people tend to leave their applications to the last minute, the Government website usually experiences heavy traffic, which could result in you missing your chance to apply.

You are only able to submit your application in English via the online application website.

The wait is also quite long and just because you win the green card lottery it does not mean that you are guaranteed to get your U.S. green card. About 125,000 names are drawn and put on a waiting list. If 50,000 applicants who are ahead of you in the queue all submit their application forms with all the necessary supporting documents, you may not even get a chance to apply for permanent residency.

Now, before we move on to the Express Entry system, let's take a quick break and take a look at some of the key similarities and differences between Canada and the States and answer that burning question you may have in the back of your mind, "Is Canada or America a better place to live."

Source: Nader Nadernejad

What is the Canada Express Entry System?

The Canadian Express Entry system hasn’t been around quite as long as its American counterpart. It was established in 2015, designed with the main aim of making the visa application process easier and more accessible to everyone. This program, however, is not a free-for-all. Instead, the Canadian government has opted to make it a points-based system, where your application will be rated based on the five main factors of the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS):

  • Age;
  • Language;
  • Education;
  • Work Experience (if any); and
  • Adaptability.

These factors are not only essential for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to determine whether or not you will be able to add significant value to the Canadian economy but whether or not you will be able to adjust to Canadian life. There are all too many stories where immigrants head to another country in search of greener pastures only to be met with additional challenges such as language barriers or not having the right qualifications or experience to find a job in their chosen field in their new hometown.

You can submit your Express Entry application through one of three programs:

  • The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP);
  • The Federal Skilled Trade Program (FSTP); or
  • The Canada Experience Class (CEC).

What Are the Requirements for the Canada Express Entry System?

As mentioned previously, you will need to meet the requirements of one of the three federal economic immigration programs to Get Express Entry to Canada. You will also need to make sure that you are admissible to Canada, which includes having a clear criminal record and bill of health, among others. You will also need to have enough money to cover yourself and any dependents traveling to Canada with you for the first few months while you settle in Canada. These requirements are put in place to make it easier for you to make a successful transition from your home country to your new home in Canada.

Nationalities Permitted to Apply

Canada’s Express Entry System is open to all nationalities worldwide 365 days a year. Unlike the Green Card Lottery, you can apply whenever you want to and your application will be valid for one year or until your Express Entry (EE) profile has been selected from the draw pool of candidates. These draws usually happen every 2 weeks, inviting roughly 5,000 applicants to apply for permanent residence in Canada. Recently, however, the Canadian Express Entry system reached record heights when it invited an incredible 27,332 people to apply to move to Canada!

Canada's new immigration targets seek to invite 1.2 million newcomers to Canada by the year 2023, with a total of 401,000 people set to call Canada home by the end of 2021, 108,500 of which will be reserved for Express Entry applicants. That's more than double that of America's DV lottery system!

What Are the Benefits of the Canadian EE System?

As with the American green card lottery, if you are successful in your Canadian visa application, you will be able to live and work in Canada on a permanent basis. You are, however, not restricted to apply for your visa during a specific period of time nor will your application be rejected because of your nationality, as with the DV Lottery system.

Creating an Express Entry profile is also not only free too but processing times for your visa application can be as speedy as six months! This means that if you submit your create your Express Entry profile today and are selected in the next draw, you could be in Canada by year-end, provided you have completed and submitted all your forms and supporting documents within the timeframe given as per the EE guidelines provided.

You will have the opportunity to improve your chances of success in many various ways at any given time. For example, you could improve your IELTS results by taking another language test or alternatively learn another language. French speakers could stand a chance to earn another 50 CRS points, for example. Gaining more work experience is another way to boost your chances as is having additional skills and educational qualifications.

One of the easiest ways to gain Express Entry to Canada is by having a job offer in a province where your skills are in-demand. This could result in acquiring a Provincial Nomination (PN). Having a PN is extremely valuable as it is worth 600 additional CRS points which could push your application to the top of the pile of applicants. Another is having Canadian work experience, as CEC applications are currently being prioritized as well as those applying through Express Entry-linked Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).

Life in Canada vs Life in the US

US and Canada flags | US DV lottery vs Canada Express Entry


Both Canada and the United States have plenty of similarities and differences. While the U.S. definitely has a stronger economy, you could potentially earn more or less the same in both countries. The current average salary in the States in 2019, according to, before the pandemic hit, was $66,778 USD in 2019. In Canada, however, the median salary averages at around $52,600 CAD per year, which now roughly equates to $41,652 USD. This will of course depend on the province you are working in as well as your profession.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in the States can be significantly higher than in Canada depending on where you live as well as your lifestyle. Americans pay higher taxes. U.S. federal taxes range anywhere from 10 percent to 37 percent whereas in Canada you’ll be taxed around 15 to 33 percent. Consumer prices are also much higher in the U.S. For example in Toronto, consumer costs could be around 24.83 percent lower than in American metropolitan areas like New York City. You can expect to pay almost half the price for rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto, not to mention that food and travel are also much much cheaper.

Take a look at the comparison below between the cost of living between these two major cities:

us-versus-canada-cost-of-living-2020 | DV Lottery versus Express Entry

Source: Investopedia


According to Business Insider, America’s healthcare is the most expensive globally. Unlike Canada, the U.S. does not have a universal healthcare system that is free to all permanent residents and citizens. On average Americans can expect to pay around $10,739 every year for private healthcare, whereas Canadians only pay around &7,068 annually.


Post-secondary education can rack up a substantial amount of debt in America. According to Investopedia, there was $1.57 trillion USD in student loan debt outstanding in the United States in 2020. More than half of students need to take out loans to cover their university or college tuition fees, spending an average of $37,584 per student loan. It is much cheaper to study in Canada. The average tuition fee for a public educational institution in America is about $8,200 USD whereas in Canada you could expect to pay around $7,938 CAD or about $6,286 USD.

Family Benefits

Overall, Canada is a much more progressive country than the United States. As a new mother or father, you can look forward to government-mandated paid parental leave, receiving up to 33 percent of your annual salary. In the U.S., however, you will have to budget in advance as although you will be allowed to take 12 weeks of leave, it will be unpaid. This could put a heavy dent in your pocket and add extra strain to the already stressful experience of caring for your newborn.

Express Entry Requirements

Canadian passport in bag | US DV lottery vs Canada Express Entry

Each of the three federal programs under the Express Entry system has its own set of minimum requirements.

Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)

The FSWP is for highly skilled foreign workers who want to live and work in Canada. There is an initial eligibility requirement that will need to be met. This requires that you score a minimum of 67 out of a possible 100 FSWP points, which is scored on a different point system to that of the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The minimum requirement includes:

  • Having skilled work experience in a National Occupational Classification (NOC) job at level 0, A or B (usually managerial, professional, and technical trade jobs);
  • Language Ability in English (CLB 7) and/or French (NCLC7) in writing, reading, listening, and speaking;
  • Education - with a Canadian secondary or post-secondary qualification or a foreign credential and an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA)
  • Proof of sufficient funds; as well as be admissible to Canada.

Federal Skilled Trade Program (FSTP)

The FSTP is for highly skilled foreign trade workers who intend on living and working in Canada on a permanent basis. The minimum requirements for this Canadian immigration program include:

  • Have at least two years of full-time work experience in a skilled trade in the past five years;
  • Meet the job requirements as stipulated by the NOC, however, you won't need a certificate of qualifcation
  • Language Ability in English (CLB 5 in speaking and listening and CLB 4 in reading and writing) and/or French (NCLC5 in speaking and listening and NCLC4 in reading and writing);
  • Have a Canadian job offer for a period of at least one year or a certificate of qualification;
  • Proof of sufficient funds; as well as be admissible to Canada.

The following groups of tradespeople can apply for permanent residency through the FSTP:

  • Major Group 72, industrial, electrical and construction trades;
  • Major Group 73, maintenance and equipment operation trades;
  • Major Group 82, supervisors and technical jobs in natural resources, agriculture and related production;
  • Major Group 92, processing, manufacturing and utilities supervisors and central control operators;
  • Minor Group 632, chefs and cooks; and
  • Minor Group 633, butchers and bakers

Canada Experience Class (CEC)

The CEC is designed to help skilled foreign workers with prior Canadian work experience immigrate to Canada. These are the minimum requirement to apply through this program:

  • Having at least one year of skilled Canadian work experience in the last three years;
  • Language Ability in English and/or French (NOC 0 or A - CLB/NCLC 7; NOC B - CLB/NCLC5)  in writing, reading, listening, and speaking;
  • Have gained your work experience under temporary resident status with work authorization; and
  • Be admissible to Canada.

4. Express Entry Application Process

woman working on laptop | US DV lottery vs Canada Express Entry

In order to apply for Express Entry, you will need to take the following steps.

1. Eligibilty

Make sure that you qualify for one of the three Canadian Immigration Programs under the Express Entry System.

2. Express Entry Profile

Once you know which program you are eligible for, create your online Express Entry Profile.

3. Invitation to Apply

Your profile will then be entered into bi-weekly draws and, if selected, you will receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residency in Canada.

4. Submit Application

Once you have gathered all your supporting documents you will be required to submit your application, upload your supporting documents and pay the relevant visa application fees.

5. Await Your Results

The IRCC let you know whether or not your application has been successful or not. 

Express FAQs

person standing on rock overlooking landscape | US DV lottery vs Canada Express Entry

1. Does Canada Have a Visa Lottery?

Although the DV Lottery and Canada’s Express Entry system are often confused, the answer is no. There is no Canadian visa lottery program.

2. What is the Difference Between the Diversity Visa Lottery and the Express Entry System?

The main difference is that Diversity Visa Lottery candidates are selected at random whereas Express Entry candidates are selected on a points-based system to apply for permanent residency.

3. Which Countries are Eligible for the Diversity Visa Lottery vs Express Entry?

America’s DV Lottery has a list of countries that are not eligible to apply. Only those born in countries that were previously disadvantaged are considered eligible whereas you can apply for Express Entry to Canada from any country in the world.

4. Is it Cheaper to Live in Canada or the US?

Generally speaking, it is more affordable to live in metropolitan areas in Canada than in America. This is also dependent on your tax income brackets as well as your city of choice and lifestyle habits.

5. Can I Live in Canada if I am a US Citizen?

Yes, you can, provided you apply for the correct type of citizenship, taking into account whether you are a student, skilled or unskilled worker. You will also be able to hang on to your U.S. passport while living in Canada.

For answers to more Canadian Express Entry Frequently Asked Questions visit our blog here.

Taking the Express Pathway to Canada vs Winning the US Lottery

America's DV Lottery vs Canada's Express Entry System infographic

All in all, both Canada and America have pros and cons to them. No country is going to match every single one of the points on your checklist of places to immigrate to, however, Canada sure does come pretty close when it comes to great salaries, job opportunities, family benefits, affordable living, friendliness, tolerance, and safety.

When it comes to comparing Canada’s Express Entry system with America’s DV Lottery, however, Canada seems to come out on top. Although the green card lottery may appear to be a quick and easy in to another country, winning the lottery doesn’t automatically give you a green card. It merely gives you the opportunity to apply for permanent residency in the States. You also have to register way in advance whereas with Express Entry you could create your Express Entry profile, get selected, and receive permanent residency all in the same year, sometimes in as little as six months. Although America's green card lottery has fewer requirements to register, Canada's EE system will let you know from the get-go whether or not you are eligible but whether or not you will be set up for a life of success in Canada. Afterall, wouldn't you want piece of mind knowing that you will be able to live the lif you've always dreamt of with the help of a supportive government and community instead of simply getting your foot in the door only to find yourself struggling and getting lost in the system?

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