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 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.
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. The entry period to apply for the DV-2016 was from October 1, 2014 to November 3, 2014.
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.
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:
- DV-1996: Colombia now ineligible.
- DV-1998: Poland now ineligible.
- DV-2002: Poland and Taiwan now eligible, Pakistan ineligible.
- DV-2004: East Timor added, eligible.
- DV-2005: Russia now ineligible.
- DV-2007: Poland again ineligible.
- DV-2008: Brazil and Peru now ineligible; Serbia and Montenegro listed separately, both eligible.
- DV-2009: Ecuador and Guatemala now ineligible.
- DV-2010: Russia now eligible; Kosovo added, eligible.
- DV-2013: Poland again eligible, Bangladesh now ineligible; South Sudan added, eligible.
- DV-2014: Guatemala again eligible.
- DV-2015: Nigeria now ineligible.
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).
Russia fell below the ineligibility limit for DV-2010.
Distribution and lottery process
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.
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). 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.
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. 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.” 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
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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". 
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.
- "8 U.S.C. 1151(e)". Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
- 9 FAM 502.6, U.S. Department of State.
- "Instructions for the 2016 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2016)" (PDF). U.S. Department of State. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
- "Diversity Visa". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
- Immigration Statistics, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- U.S. Department of State
- "Characteristics of Diversity Legal Permanent Residents: 2004" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-04-01.
- Visa Bulletin for August 2009 Archived July 17, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- "DV 2015 - Selected Entrants". travel.state.gov. Retrieved 2015-10-18.
- "Shredded visa data could give terror tips". Reading Eagle. 22 August 2002. p. A9.
- "GAO-07-1174 Border Security: Fraud Risks Complicate State's Ability to Manage Diversity Visa Program" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-09-27.
- Wasem, Ruth Ellen (1 April 2011). "Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery Issues" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
- VOA News Archived November 3, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- "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.
- Fraud Warning, U.S. Department of State.
- Diversity Visa Lottery: Read the Rules, Avoid the Rip-Offs, U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
- "Department of State warning of scam emails". Contact-us.state.gov. Retrieved 2012-04-01.
- "Report of Inspection, Embassy of Ukraine, Kyiv, 2013" (PDF).
- "Report of Inspection, Embassy of Ghana, Accra, 2009" (PDF).
- "Report of Inspection, Embassy of Albania, Tirana, 2010" (PDF).
- "Testimony of Stephen A Edson Before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement Hearing on the Diversity Visa Program" (PDF). Retrieved 16 January 2013.
- "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.
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