Diversity Immigrant Visa

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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.


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] Individuals may apply under their own country of birth if that country is eligible, or under their spouse's country of birth if that country is eligible (even if the applicant's own country of birth is also eligible).[5][6][7][8][9] In some cases, a parent's country of birth could be used (again, regardless if the applicant's own country of birth is also eligible; other factors determine if that could be done).


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.[10]


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. Colombia, Pakistan, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Bangladesh, and Nigeria have been added since 1995 and are currently ineligible, while Taiwan is the only country which was ineligible in 1995 but eligible now due to decreasing immigration.

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 5,000 openings for DV-2015 (along with Cameroon, Liberia, and Nepal).[11]

Russia fell below the ineligibility limit for DV-2010[12] 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. Similarly, Guatemala was ineligible from 2009 to 2013 due to a wave of adoptions from that country, and Poland was ineligible for two unconnected periods (1998 to 2001, and 2007 to 2012) due in the latter case to DHS' effort to reduce a backlog of adjustment of status applications.

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.[13] 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).[14]

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[15]

Region DV-2007 DV-2008 DV-2009 DV-2010 DV-2011 DV-2012 DV-2013
Africa except "special countries" 1.31% 2.40% 2.30% 2.19% 2.06% 1.69% 1.84%
Asia 0.48% 0.63% 0.64% 0.61% 0.68% 0.84% 0.93%
Europe except "special countries" 1.26% 1.85% 1.94% 2.10% 1.75% 1.63% 1.31%
North America 0.61% 0.64% 0.38% 0.69% 0.47% 0.4% 0.5%
Oceania 4.13% 4.57% 4.62% 5.49% 4.63% 5.28% 6.22%
South and Central America and the Caribbean 0.65% 0.84% 1.05% 1.69% 1.07% 1.08% 1.05%

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 (that allows to detect them without complex artificial intelligence algorithms, as opposed to different files, containing different images of the same person). Legitimate entries are not disqualified during the selection process.

Even though DV lottery instructions mention "All entries received within each region during the entry period will have an equal chance of being selected",[16] there is a strong statistical evidence to believe certain countries have very different chances to win (much lower) than the regions they belong to. That is true about Ukraine and Uzbekistan within EU region, as well as for Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria within AF region for DV-2013.[17][18][19]

DV-2013 provides a perfect opportunity for statistical analysis because CEAC system [20] was already in place (not available in prior lotteries) and at the same time DOS still published thorough statistics [21] for the number of entries submitted (DOS did it only for years 2007-2013; it is not available for DV-2014 and possibly future lotteries)

According to 22 CFR 42.33, [22] renumbering is an important process during processing of entries. "Processing of petitions. Entries received during the petition submission period established for the fiscal year in question and meeting all of the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section will be assigned a number in a separate numerical sequence established for each regional area specified in INA 203(c)(1)(F). Upon completion of the numbering of all petitions, all numbers assigned for each region will be separately rank-ordered at random by a computer using standard computer software for that purpose. The Department will then select in the rank orders determined by the computer program a quantity of petitions for each region estimated to be sufficient to ensure, to the extent possible, usage of all immigrant visas authorized under INA 203(c) for the fiscal year in question. The Department will consider petitions selected in this manner to have been approved for the purposes of this section." However, the evidence shows that for those 6 countries frequency CDF function is "cut" by a certain limit (where a break in CDF for a specific country is seen), not mentioned in the law or in Department of State regulations. That could only mean one thing - winners from those "special" countries are "cut" beyond the limits provided on top of random selection, significantly decreasing chances to win from those countries. The legality of what is happening is questionable - general impression is that no per country limit should exist on the selection stage, even though 7% limit legally applies on visa issuance stage. Interesting to mention, only some of those 6 countries are more or less close to reaching the visa issuance limit, others are well under it. Iran was the only country for which the 7% visa limit was actually reached in DV-2013,[23] but no limit was set for Iran on selection stage.

Regional maximums in rank numbers and per country maximums (breaks in CDF functions) for special countries for DV-2013 [24] [25] [26]

Region Regional Max Rank Number Country Rank Number of the Break in CDF for the Country
Africa 97005 Egypt 22899
Africa 97005 Ethiopia 32913
Africa 97005 Ghana 30538
Africa 97005 Nigeria 19977
Africa 97005 All Countries other than Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria 97005
Asia 10682 All Countries 10682
Europe 30532 Ukraine 14682
Europe 30532 Uzbekistan 19864
Europe 30532 All Countries other than Ukraine and Uzbekistan 30532
North America 8 Bahamas 8
Oceania 1638 All Countries 1638
South and Central America and the Caribbean 1252 All Countries 1252

Probabilities to Win for Special Countries, Relative to their Regions, DV-2013

Special Country Region Probability to Win Relative to Region Absolute Probability to Win
Egypt Africa 25% 0.45%
Ethiopia Africa 37% 0.67%
Ghana Africa 34% 0.62%
Nigeria Africa 21% 0.38%
Ukraine Europe 48% 0.63%
Uzbekistan Europe 69% 0.90%

So, we could see that, provided you have a choice from which country/region to play, even though generally chances are higher to play from African region, than from Asia or South America, as well as from Europe, and chances are generally higher to play from European region than from Asia or South America, that is not the case for "special countries" in case of DV-2013.

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 lack of interest 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[citation needed]

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:[27]

Region Winner allocation Country with highest number of winners Countries with high level of disqualifications (percent of entries which are illegitimate and therefore disqualified during selection process)[citation needed]
Africa 50.00% Nigeria Nigeria 82.71%, Egypt 65.6%, Ethiopia 64.06%, Ghana 56.65%, Sudan 54.7%, Niger 46.73%; side note - Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia and Ghana have high level of disqualified entries on completely different reason - because they are artificially "circumcised"; other African countries are not "circumcised" artificially
Europe 30.98% Ukraine Ukraine 71.49%, Belarus 61.63%, Latvia 52.28%, Uzbekistan 47.81%, Armenia 40.38%, Lithuania 40.04%; side note - Ukraine and Uzbekistan have high level of disqualified entries on completely different reason - because they are artificially "circumcised"; other European countries are not "circumcised" artificially
Asia 15.00% Iran Bangladesh 96.71%; side note - Iran and possibly Nepal will possibly join the list of "circumcised" countries starting DV-2014.
South and Central America and the Caribbean 2.00% Venezuela Almost no disqualified entries
Oceania 2.00% Australia Fiji 16.32%
North America 0.02% Bahamas (only eligible country in North America) Almost no disqualified 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[28] "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"

Risks of Entering the Lottery

According to the Department of State the lottery application is an expression of interest in immigrating to the United States[citation needed]. Entry to the Diversity Visa Lottery equals to a petition, as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act[citation needed]. Regardless of the lottery results the fact of the lottery registration must be disclosed by persons who wish to obtain any nonimmigrant visa to the US (for the purpose of travel, study etc.)[citation needed]. This may be taken into account by a consular officer when adjudicating a subsequent nonimmigrant visa application. The fact of registration itself may not be an automatic bar to issuance of a nonimmigrant visa, however if the applicant has been registered as a lottery winner by the Department of State, this will demonstrate a higher degree of immigrant intent and foreclose many nonimmigrant visa options. Problems may arise when there is a conflict between the nonimmigrant intent declared by the applicant and the immigrant intent inferred by the lottery participation, unless the person applies for a visa which allows dual intent. [29]

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 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.[30] A 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.”[31] 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[32]

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.[33] 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.[34]

Comprehensive analysis of DV lottery issues has been prepared by Congressional Research Service.[32]

If passed, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 will abolish the program from fiscal year 2015.

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.[35][36]

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.[37][38]

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.[39]

Office of inspector General identifies multiple problems with DV lottery in several countries, including Ukraine, Ghana, Albania in embassy inspection reports.[40][41][42]

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.[43]

2012 errors and 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. 22,316 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, former 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.[44] Kenneth White has indicated the decision is very narrow and is very hard to appeal.

May winners, represented by Ira J. Kurzban at the company,[45] appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. During the appeal Office of Inspector General, U.S. completed an investigation to review DV-2012 on October 25, 2011.[46] Investigation showed the reason for the failure was negligence by Kirit Amin who left Department of State by that time.[citation needed]

The appeal was also lost on July 3, 2012.[citation needed]


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  2. ^ 9 FAM 42.33 Notes, U.S. Department of State.
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  4. ^ "Diversity Visa". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  5. ^ [1], Matter of Chatterton
  6. ^ [2], Matter of Ponce de Leon
  7. ^ [3], Matter of Ascher
  8. ^ [4], DIVERSITY VISA LOTTERY Reasons Why Attorney Processing Can be Helpful! by Bernard P. Wolfsdorf, Esquire, 2013
  9. ^ [5], USCIS recent decision on alternate chargeability
  10. ^ Immigration Statistics, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  11. ^ http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2014/visa-bulletin-for-june-2014.html
  12. ^ U.S. Department of State[dead link]
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  14. ^ Visa Bulletin for August 2009[dead link]
  15. ^ "How to calculate Probabilities". 
  16. ^ "Bureau of Consular Affairs; Registration for the Diversity Immigrant (DV-2015) Visa Program". 
  17. ^ "DV-2013 full CEAC data - 2 consulates not included - Brazzaville, Republic of Congo and Lilongwe, Malawi". 
  18. ^ "DV-2014 full CEAC data". 
  19. ^ "DV-2014 full CEAC data analysis". 
  20. ^ "CEAC Visa Status Check". 
  21. ^ "Diversity Visa Program, DV 2007-2013: Number of Entries Received During Each Online Registration Period by Country of Chargeability". 
  22. ^ "22 CFR 42.33 - Diversity immigrants". 
  23. ^ "Embassy Ankara has reached its mandated numerical limit for Iranian Diversity Visa (DV) 2013 applicants". 
  24. ^ "Full CEAC data for winners processed via consular processing in DV-2013, 2 consulates not included - Brazzaville, Republic of Congo and Lilongwe, Malawi". 
  25. ^ "Frequency Cumulative Distribution Function for AF Region, including special countries". 
  26. ^ "Frequency Cumulative Distribution Function for EU Region, including special countries". 
  27. ^ "Visa Bulletin for September 2011". Travel.state.gov. Retrieved 2012-09-27. 
  28. ^ "Testimony of Stephen A Edson Before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement Hearing on the Diversity Visa Program". Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  29. ^ "The Diversity Lottery - A Deceptively Simple Program (An Update)". Immigration & Nationality Law Handbook. Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  30. ^ "Shredded visa data could give terror tips". Reading Eagle. 22 August 2002. p. A9. 
  31. ^ "GAO-07-1174 Border Security: Fraud Risks Complicate State's Ability to Manage Diversity Visa Program" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-09-27. 
  32. ^ a b Wasem, Ruth Ellen (1 April 2011). "Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery Issues". Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  33. ^ VOA News[dead link]
  34. ^ "Save America Comprehensive Immigration Act of 2009 (H.R. 264): Title X—Diversity Visas". United States House of Representatives. THOMAS. January 7, 2009. Retrieved May 24, 2010. 
  35. ^ Fraud Warning, U.S. Department of State.
  36. ^ Diversity Visa Lottery: Read the Rules, Avoid the Rip-Offs, U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
  37. ^ "Example of a fraudulent email". Infobeatmail.com. Retrieved 2012-04-01. 
  38. ^ Annie McGuire, Fraud Victim Advocate (2005-08-24). "How to recognize a deceptive email". Fraudaid.com. Retrieved 2012-04-01. 
  39. ^ "Department of State warning of scam emails". Contact-us.state.gov. Retrieved 2012-04-01. 
  40. ^ "Report of Inspection, Embassy of Ukraine, Kyiv, 2013". 
  41. ^ "Report of Inspection, Embassy of Ghana, Accra, 2009". 
  42. ^ "Report of Inspection, Embassy of Albania, Tirana, 2010". 
  43. ^ "Diversity Visa Program and Its Susceptibility to Fraud and Abuse". Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims of the Committee on the Judiciary. United States House of Representatives. April 29, 2004. 
  44. ^ "Civil Action No. 11-1126". 14 July 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  45. ^ Kurzban Kurzban Weinger Tetzeli and Pratt P.A.
  46. ^ Geisel, Harold W. "Memorandum Report - Review of the FY 2012 Diversity Visa Program Selection Process, ISP-I-12-01". United States Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 

External links