The Diversity Visa Lottery in the Trump Era
For about 50,000 annually, the Diversity Visa (DV) lottery program provides a way to enter the United States and build a better life. The program provides countless benefits to the United States as a whole. Yet, the DV lottery is in grave danger of discontinuation. Recent challenges to the DV lottery from both the Trump Administration and immigration opponents in Congress have made headlines. Diversity visas make America accessible to thousands of foreign nationals who have no other way of attaining a US visa. Though for many, the details of the DV lottery program may not be entirely clear. Who benefits? Where do diversity visa applicants come from? In short, this article provides a detailed introduction to the DV lottery program, its benefits, and its opposition.
If you or a loved one have applied for the DV lottery program, it’s important to talk to an experienced and trustworthy immigration attorney. Navigating the complicated application process can be very difficult. There is little room for mistakes. Therefore, even a simple oversight or error can result in denial or delay. The skilled and professional lawyers at Davis & Associates are ready to help you with your specific immigration questions, including any regarding visas, lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, or green cards.
The Diversity Visa Lottery Program
The Diversity Visa (DV) lottery program has been in existence since 1990, when it was signed into law as part of the Immigration Act of 1990. The intention of the DV lottery was to encourage natives of specific countries to immigrate to the United States. Each year, the State Department identifies eligible countries for the DV lottery and makes up to 50,000 visas available. Chosen via computer randomization, winners of the DV lottery become eligible for diversity visas. Those who pass US application and vetting procedures may enter the United States as lawful permanent residents (LPRs), and will receive green cards. As all decisions are made via a random process, those who are not chosen one year must completely re-enter to be considered for any following years.
DV Lottery Participants
Countries included in the DV lottery must have a record of low immigration to the United States. This is quantified as less than 50,000 immigrants from a specific country within the previous five years. The US government designed the DV lottery to be as fair as possible, regardless of the population size or location of countries. Thus, countries are sorted into six geographic regions with standard allotments and no more than 7% (roughly 3,500) of a year’s allocated visas may go to natives of any one eligible country. Currently, only a handful of countries are excluded from the DV lottery. These include countries with large US immigrant populations such as Mainland China, South Korea, Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Jamaica, and Pakistan. For a full list of eligible and ineligible countries, read the State Department’s DV lottery program instructions.
According to the State Department, over 14.5 million worldwide entered the DV lottery during FY 2018. An additional 8.39 million derivatives, or dependent family members of lottery applicants, also entered. View totals broken down by year, country of origin, and entrant type here. The data tell us that an astounding number of foreign nationals want to immigrate to the US via the DV lottery. In 2017, a total of 51,592 visas were awarded through the diversity program, representing 4.6% of total visas provided. Of those awarded lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, 97% were new arrivals, signifying that the program is working. For more information, you can read the entirety of the Department of Homeland Security’s annual LPR flow report here.
DV Winners Must Undergo Intense Screening
Once the DV lottery randomly chooses its applicants, the selection process truly begins. No lottery winner automatically receives a visa and admission into the United States. Each lottery winner becomes eligible for LPR status via the diversity visa, but immigration to the US is not guaranteed. For example, of the 5,014 citizens of Uzbekistan selected by the lottery, only 3,032 were provided with visas. This means that of the roughly 5,000 Uzbeks selected by the DV lottery, roughly 60% passed the visa screening and application process and were ultimately provided a diversity visa and LPR status.
Extensive application requirements exist for all DV entrants, and such rigorous standards also apply to any dependent family members such as spouses or children, known as derivatives. For example, educational requirements are in place – entrants must have at least a high school education or equivalent, or at least two years of experience working in a field that requires at least two years of training. Additionally, all candidates submit to background checks, screening for potential ties to terrorism and criminal behavior, and detailed interviews.
For more information about the DV lottery’s application rules and requirements, you can find the State Department’s FY 2019 instructions here. Additionally, you can contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Davis & Associates with any visa, green card, or naturalization question you may have.
Benefits of the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Program
Diversity Visas (DV), awarded via the standard lottery program, provide hope and the promise of a better life for up to 50,000 immigrants annually. Often, these immigrants do not have any specific ties to the United States, such as immediate family members or job prospects, that may allow them to apply for another type of visa. The DV lottery provides opportunity for economic success and advancement within the United States. Such economic benefits are excellent both for the individual and the society. For instance, in a 2017 New York Times Op-Ed, one beneficiary of the DV lottery program praised the opportunities the visas provide to people around the world.
The Stanford Law Review argues that the DV lottery “plays an important role in the long-term strategy for maintaining the competitiveness of the US labor force.” The lottery and its rigorous screening process ensure that only the most qualified and economically-beneficial applicants enter the US. And as more and more qualified natives from low-immigration countries enter and assimilate, they will encourage their peers to follow. Often, DV lottery immigrants are “trailblazers” who encourage a robust and healthy economy. In short, their meaningful contributions benefit America as a whole.
Current Challenges to the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Program
Recently, President Trump and his administration targeted the Diversity Visa (DV) program. For example, the president has claimed that the DV lottery allows countries to send the US their “worst people” and that these countries “put them in a bin.” This statement blatantly ignores the facts. As discussed above, all those selected via the DV lottery program do not receive immediate lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. All those selected are simply eligible for diversity visas. In fact, vigorous US visa processes ensure the diversity visa vetting process is notoriously thorough. As a whole, Trump’s critical blanket statements ignore the overall impact diverse immigration populations make on the US public and private sectors.
In addition to the Trump Administration’s challenges, the DV program has opponents within Congress. Several immigration-related bills have been introduced and deliberated by Congress during 2018. One such bill is the Goodlatte Bill, also known as the “Securing America’s Future Act.” This bill, supported by Republicans, sought to devastate the current immigration balance within America, and if signed into law as-is would have ended the DV lottery. While the Goodlatte bill failed on June 21, 2018, it represents the line of thinking of many who wish to stymie the flow of immigrants into the US. Therefore, it is likely that the DV lottery will continue to face challenges by opponents in the coming years.
Questions? Consult an Expert Immigration Attorney
Despite the obvious benefits of the Diversity Visa (DV) lottery, the program’s future is not clear. Should the DV lottery disappear, a channel of immigration may close forever, cutting off critical opportunities for deserving people worldwide. If you or your loved ones have questions about the DV lottery, or need help applying for any type of visa, do not delay in contacting an expert immigration attorney.
Serving immigrants and their families across Texas, the attorneys at Davis & Associates are immigration law experts. Our lawyers will protect your rights and guide you through the visa application process. If you’re located in Dallas, you can schedule a free initial consultation with Davis & Associates today.
Office of Immigration Statistics. (August 2018). Annual Flow Report: Lawful Permanent Residents. US Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved from https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Lawful_Permanent_Residents_2017.pdf
Office of Immigration Statistics. (August 2018).
Bernal, Rafael. (2018, January 28). What is the diversity visa lottery? The Hill. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/latino/370879-what-is-the-diversity-visa-lottery
Kennedy, Patrick. (October 2018). The Labor Economics Case for the Diversity Visa Program. Stanford Law Review. Retrieved from https://www.stanfordlawreview.org/online/the-labor-economics-case-for-the-diversity-visa-lottery/
Kennedy, Patrick. (October 2018).
Bernal, Rafael. (2018, January 28).