Diversity Immigrant Visa

Diversity Immigrant Visa

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.


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-2013, natives of the following nations are ineligible: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.[2] The entry period to apply for the DV-2013 is from October 4, 2011 to November 5, 2011.


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, Ethiopia, Iran, Nigeria, Ukraine, Venezuela and Poland are not on the ineligible list as of 2011 despite sending over 50,000 immigrants in the previous five years.[3]


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.

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

The large number of changes for DV-2002 was due to a three-year gap between the publication of the 1998 and 1999 immigration statistics. In other words, DV-2001 was still using the statistics from the five-year period from 1994 to 1998 to determine country eligibility. As immigration has increased, the number of ineligible countries has risen, from 13 for DV-1995 to 19 now. Taiwan is the only country which was ineligible in 1995 but eligible now due to decreasing immigration.

Russia fell below the ineligibility limit for DV-2010 [4] due to a combination of a sharp dropoff in adoptions (from 5,878 in 2004 to 2,301 in 2007) and the unusual bureaucratic quirk of large numbers of Russian immigrants being allocated to "Soviet Union (former)" rather than Russia in 2006 and 2007.

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.[5] In addition, no single country can receive more than 7% of the total number of visas (3,500).

In order to allow for those who do not pursue immigrant visas, and for the applicants who do not qualify, more 'winners' are selected in the lottery than there are visas available. Hence being selected from the lottery does not guarantee an immigrant visa to the U.S. To receive a diversity visa and immigrate to the United States, 'winners' must meet all eligibility requirements under U.S. law to qualify, and must be interviewed before the 50,000 green cards are distributed. Requirements include at least a high school diploma, or its equivalent, or two years of work experience in an occupation requiring at least two years training.

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).[6]

Starting with the DV-2008, several questions and options for answers have been added. Applicants are now required to provide information, such as the country where they currently live and their highest level of education achieved, in the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form (E-DV Entry Form). The open registration period for the lottery was restored from 60 days to 30 days beginning with the calendar year 2010 diversity visa lottery (DV-2012).

Winning chances

Winning chances per year, per continent, per legitimate entry, DV-2007 through DV-2012

Region DV-2007 DV-2008 DV-2009 DV-2010 DV-2011 DV-2012
Africa 1.31% 2.40% 2.30% 2.19% 2.06% 1.69%
Asia 0.48% 0.63% 0.64% 0.61% 0.68% 0.84%
Europe 1.26% 1.85% 1.94% 2.10% 1.75% 1.63%
North America 0.61% 0.64% 0.38% 0.69% 0.47% 0.4%
Oceania 4.13% 4.57% 4.62% 5.49% 4.63% 5.28%
South and Central America and the Caribbean 0.65% 0.84% 1.05% 1.69% 1.07% 1.08%

Jump in those probabilities from DV-2007 to DV-2008 was caused by significant improvement in fraud prevention techniques and error prevention techniques (mainly catching duplicate entries and throwing out entries with invalid photos).

Legitimate entry for the purpose of this table is an entry with photos of humans satisfying all photo requirements, that do not have duplicates where photos coincide as files. Legitimate entries are not disqualified during the selection process.

Chances to get visa for a winner

Those are the average numbers per continent, in reality they differ from country to country and do not depend on the continent at all. For a country with statistically significant amount of winners (more than 100) the highest chance to get a visa per winner in DV-2009 was Nepal (85.4%) and the lowest was Senegal (14.05%). Those numbers include failure to follow-up or disinterest by a lottery winner, or an inability to satisfy all of the visa lottery requirements.

Chances to get visa for winners, per year, per continent, DV-2007 through DV-2009

Region DV-2007 DV-2008 DV-2009
Africa 41.01% 43.47% 46.12%
Asia 59.59% 51.87% 55.37%
Europe 56.26% 56.50% 50.83%
North America 50.00% 29.41% 8.33%
Oceania 38.75% 41.42% 33.59%
South and Central America and the Caribbean 54.86% 45.26% 41.44%

2012 Results

For the 2012 Diversity Visa Lottery, the winning applicants were apportioned as follows:[7]:

Region Winner Allocation Country with Highest Number of Winners Countries with High Fraud Level (percent of entries which are illegitimate and therefore disqualified during selection process)
Africa 50.00 % Nigeria Nigeria 82.71%, Egypt 65.6%, Ethiopia 64.06%, Ghana 56.65%, Sudan 54.7%, Niger 46.73%
Europe 30.98 % Ukraine Ukraine 71.49%, Belarus 61.63%, Latvia 52.28%, Uzbekistan 47.81%, Armenia 40.38%, Lithuania 40.04%
Asia 15.00 % Iran Bangladesh 96.71%
South and Central America and the Caribbean 2.00 % Venezuela Almost no fraudulent entries
Oceania 2.00 % Australia Fiji 16.32%
North America 0.02% Bahamas (only eligible country in North America) Almost no fraudulent entries

The percentage of fraudulent entries from Bangladesh has been difficult to eradicate from the very beginning. According to Testimony of Stephen A. Edson Before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement Hearing on the Diversity Visa Program [8] "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"

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.

Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, an immigrant from Egypt, a country not on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, was among the beneficiaries of the program.[9] 2007 GAO report stated: “In 2003, State’s Inspector General raised concerns that aliens from countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism can apply for diversity visas. Nearly 9,800 persons from these countries have obtained permanent residency in the United States through the program. We found no documented evidence that DV immigrants from these, or other, countries posed a terrorist or other threat.” [10] Immigrants coming to the United States in the other LPR visa categories are not restricted if they come from these same countries and ... background checks for national security risks are performed on all prospective immigrants seeking to come to the United States [11]

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.[12] 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.[13]

Comprehensive analysis of DV lottery issues has been prepared by Congressional Research Service [14]

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.[15][16]

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.[17][18]

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.[19]

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 long time 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 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.[20]

2012 errors; lawsuit

Due to a programming error, the results of the 2012 DV lottery, which had been available since May 1, 2011, were rescinded on Friday, May 13, 2011. Around 22,000 applicants had been notified that they had been selected for further processing. David Donahue, assistant secretary for Visa Services asserted that due to an error in the selection program, the selection had not been random, with more than 90 percent of winners selected coming from among those who had submitted their applications during the first two days of the registration period. As a result, the decision was taken to void all selection results and re-run the selection process. New results were published on July 15, 2011. Kirit Amin, Chief Information Officer for the Bureau of Consular Affairs and Director for the Office of Consular Systems and Technology, narrowed down the figure further to 98%.

Kenneth White, an immigration attorney in Los Angeles, contacted the State Department in mid-May requesting that the 22,000 winners be allowed to go forward with their applications and that a second drawing be held for the remaining slots, arguing it would still be a random drawing. Those who had already won the lottery said it was unfair to nullify the results. The putative winners sought class action status to fight the nullification, but this was denied by Judge Amy Berman Jackson on July 14, who ruled in favor of the State Department.[21] Kenneth White has indicated the decision is very narrow and is very hard to appeal.

John Patrick Pratt, a partner of Ira J. Kurzban at the company [22] filed an appeal. Electronic court records indicate the filing was done on September 9, according to.[23][non-primary source needed]

Office of Inspector General, U.S. has completed an investigation to review DV-2012 on October 25, 2011.[24]

The 22316 May winners joined into several internet groups seeking for a Congressional action on their behalf.


  1. ^ "8 U.S.C. 1151(e)". Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/uscode08/usc_sec_08_00001151----000-.html#e. Retrieved May 24, 2010. 
  2. ^ Instructions for the DV-2013, U.S. Department of State.
  3. ^ Immigration Statistics, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  4. ^ U.S. Department of State
  5. ^ Charactristics of Diversity Legal Permanent Residents: 2004
  6. ^ Visa Bulletin for August 2009
  7. ^ 2012 Diversity Visa Lottery Results
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ "Shredded visa data could give terror tips". Reading Eagle: p. A9. 22 August 2002. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=qYY1AAAAIBAJ&sjid=56IFAAAAIBAJ&pg=3226,3915848. 
  10. ^ http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d071174.pdf
  11. ^ http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41747.pdf
  12. ^ VOA News
  13. ^ "Save America Comprehensive Immigration Act of 2009 (H.R. 264): Title X—Diversity Visas". United States House of Representatives. THOMAS. January 7, 2009. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c111:1:./temp/~c111goHqvm:e118205:. Retrieved May 24, 2010. 
  14. ^ http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41747.pdf
  15. ^ Fraud Warning, U.S. Department of State.
  16. ^ Diversity Visa Lottery: Read the Rules, Avoid the Rip-Offs, U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
  17. ^ Example of a fradulent email
  18. ^ How to recognize a deceptive email
  19. ^ Department of State warning of scam emails
  20. ^ "Diversity Visa Program and Its Susceptibility to Fraud and Abuse". Hearing Before the Subcommitee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims of the Committee on the Judiciary. United States House of Representatives. April 29, 2004. http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/judiciary/hju93387.000/hju93387_0.htm. 
  21. ^ http://legaltimes.typepad.com/files/jackson-opinion.pdf
  22. ^ Kurzban Kurzban Weinger Tetzeli and Pratt P.A. http://www.kkwtlaw.com/CM/Custom/TOCFirmOverview.asp
  23. ^ http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2011/09/09/politics-us-visa-lottery-lawsuit_8669588.html
  24. ^ Read more: hhttp://oig.state.gov/documents/organization/176330.pdf

External links

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