Diversity Immigrant Visa

The five-year (2006–2010) legal immigration rate per country's total 2005 population, defined as all those who received legal permanent residence in all categories, including regular immigrants, refugees and asylees, diversity lottery winners, NACARA/HRIFA beneficiaries, and others.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa program is a United States congressionally mandated lottery program for receiving a United States Permanent Resident Card. It is also known as the Green Card Lottery. The lottery is administered on an annual basis by the Department of State and conducted under the terms of Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Section 131 of the Immigration Act of 1990 (Pub. L. 101-649) amended INA 203 to provide for a new class of immigrants known as "diversity immigrants" (DV immigrants). The Act makes available 55,000[1] permanent resident visas annually to natives of countries deemed to have low rates of immigration to the United States.


  • History 1
  • Ineligible countries 2
    • Exemptions 2.1
    • Changes 2.2
  • Distribution and lottery process 3
  • Legal status 4
  • Frauds and scams 5
  • Criticism of the DV Lottery system 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The Immigration Act of 1990 established the Diversity Visa (DV) program, where 55,000 immigrant visas would be available in an annual lottery, starting in fiscal year 1995. The lottery aims to diversify the immigrant population in the United States, by selecting applicants mostly from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States in the previous five years.

Starting in fiscal year 1999, 5,000 of the visas from the DV program are reserved for use by the NACARA program, so the number of immigrant visas available in the lottery is reduced to 50,000.[2]

Ineligible countries

Those born in any territory that has sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the previous five years are not eligible to receive a diversity visa. For DV-2016, natives of the following nations are ineligible: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.[3] The entry period to apply for the DV-2016 was from October 1, 2014 to November 3, 2014.[4]


The term 50,000 "immigrants" refers only to people who immigrated via the family-sponsored, employment, or immediate relatives of U.S. citizen categories, and does not include other categories such as refugees, asylum seekers, NACARA beneficiaries, or previous diversity immigrants. It is for this reason that Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Burma, Ethiopia and Guatemala are not on the ineligible list as of 2014 despite sending over 50,000 immigrants in the previous five years.[5]

Northern Ireland has a special exemption, with residents able to enter the lottery despite the rest of the United Kingdom being ineligible.


The first program was DV-1995, and the following 13 countries were ineligible from the start: Canada, China (mainland), Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. Since then, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Peru have been added to the ineligible list and are currently on it, Taiwan has been removed from it, and Guatemala, Poland, and Russia have been on it at times, reflecting the changing levels of immigration from these countries.

Changes to the list of countries over the years include the following:

Of the world's most populous countries, most countries down to Vietnam (13th) are now ineligible, with the exception of Indonesia (4th), Russia (9th), and Japan (10th). The next ranked countries such as Ethiopia (14th), Egypt (15th), Iran (17th), and the Dem. Rep. of Congo (19th) are among the heaviest users of the lottery; each of these were assigned close to the maximum possible ~4,500 openings for DV-2015 (along with Liberia, Nepal, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan).[6]

Russia fell below the ineligibility limit for DV-2010.[7]

Distribution and lottery process

Regions and eligible countries for the Diversity Visa lottery

The visas are distributed on a regional basis, with each region sending fewer immigrants to the US in the previous 5 years receiving more diversity visas. Currently, Africa and Europe receive about 80% of the visas in the lottery.[8]

Over 13.6 million applications for the 2008 Diversity Visa Lottery (DV-2010) were submitted — an increase of 4.5 million, or 50%, from the 9.1 million applications submitted in the 2007 Diversity Visa Lottery (DV-2009).[9] Roughly 14.5 million applications were submitted for 2013 Diversity Visa Lottery (DV-2015), which meant that a particular person had the chance of 0.34% of winning the lottery.[10]

Legal status

In December 2005, the United States House of Representatives voted 273–148 to add an amendment to the border enforcement bill H.R. 4437 abolishing the DV. Opponents of the lottery said it was susceptible to fraud and was a way for terrorists to enter the country. The Senate never passed the bill.

The terrorist [13]

In March 2007, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced H.R. 1430, which would eliminate the diversity visa program. In June 2007, the U.S. House passed H.R. 2764 to eliminate funding for the program, and the Senate did likewise in September.[14] However, the final version of this bill with amendments, signed into law on December 26, 2007, did not include the removal of funds for the program. Several attempts have been made over the last several years to eliminate the lottery. Although H.R. 2764 was an appropriation bill and could only cut funds for the lottery during one fiscal year, this was the first time that both the House and the Senate passed a bill to halt the diversity visa program. H.R. 2764

Rep. Goodlatte reintroduced his Security and Fairness Enhancement for America Act (formerly H.R. 1430, now H.R. 2305) on May 7, 2009. The bill would have amended the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate the diversity immigrant program completely, but did not pass.

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) introduced the Save America Comprehensive Immigration Act of 2009 (H.R. 264) on January 7, 2009. The bill would have doubled the number of diversity visas available to 110,000 yearly. The bill did not pass.[15]

If it had passed, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 would have abolished the program in fiscal year 2015.

A comprehensive analysis of DV lottery issues has been prepared by Congressional Research Service.[13]

Frauds and scams

There is no charge to enter the diversity visa lottery, and the only way to do so is by completing and sending the electronic form available at the U.S. Department of State's website during the registration period. However, there are numerous companies and websites that charge a fee in order to complete the form for the applicant. The Department of State and the Federal Trade Commission have warned that some of these businesses falsely claim to increase someone's chances of winning the lottery, or that they are affiliated with the U.S. government.[16][17]

There have also been numerous cases of fraudulent emails and letters which falsely claim to have been sent by the Department of State and that the recipient has been granted a Permanent Resident Card. These messages prompt the recipients to transfer a "visa processing fee" as a prerequisite for obtaining a "guaranteed" green card. The messages are sometimes sent to people who never participated in the lottery and can look trustworthy as they contain the recipient's exact name and contact details and what appears to be a legal notice.

The Department of State has issued a warning against the scammers. It notes that any email claiming the recipient to be a winner of the lottery is fake because the Department has never notified and will not notify winners by email. The Department has urged recipients of such messages to notify the Internet Crime Complaint Center about the scam.[18]

Office of inspector General identifies multiple problems with DV lottery in several countries, including Ukraine, Ghana, Albania in embassy inspection reports.[19][20][21]

According to Testimony of Stephen A. Edson before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement Hearing on the Diversity Visa Program, regarding the 2012 DV lottery results, "in Bangladesh, for example, one agent is reported to have enrolled an entire phone book so that he could then either extort money from winning applicants who had never entered the program to begin with or sell their winning slots to others". [22]

Criticism of the DV Lottery system

Until DV-2010, there was no means by which an applicant could check the status of an application. Only those selected in the lottery were notified, by mail. However, starting with DV-2010 the applicant receives a confirmation number after a successful application is submitted. This number can be used to check the application status online from May 1. This was a long awaited feature since many postal services in developing or politically unstable countries are neither effective nor trustworthy.

Also, there have been arguments by longtime temporary legal residents in the United States against the fairness of the DV program. A situation where high skilled (H-1B and L-1 visas) workers and taxpayers remain on temporary visas in the US for years (in some cases, more than a decade) with no clear path to becoming permanent residents while 50,000 random people are picked around the world and handed permanent resident status questions the fairness of the US immigration system. The odds of winning a diversity immigration visa is based on national origin of current U.S. residents descended from such countries. Hence, for example, Asia has a small quota since countries with large populations (China, India, Pakistan) are excluded.[23]


  1. ^
  2. ^ 9 FAM 42.33 Notes, U.S. Department of State.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Immigration Statistics, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  6. ^ http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2015/visa-bulletin-for-june-2015.html
  7. ^ U.S. Department of State
  8. ^
  9. ^ Visa Bulletin for August 2009 Archived July 17, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^ VOA News Archived November 3, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^
  16. ^ Fraud Warning, U.S. Department of State.
  17. ^ Diversity Visa Lottery: Read the Rules, Avoid the Rip-Offs, U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^

External links

  • U.S. Department of State – Diversity Visa Lottery Instructions
  • Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery
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