What is the Diversity Visa Lottery?
The Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Program plays a very important role in America’s immigration system. For many across the globe, green cards or other visas are inaccessible due to lack of familial or employment connections. Without this, or other special status, the possibility of immigrating to the United States (U.S.) can seem daunting or even impossible. This is especially true for people from countries with small U.S. immigrant populations. Smaller immigrant communities in America means fewer familial and networking connections for those abroad. But the DV lottery program makes the U.S. accessible for this exact group of people in nations large and small.
Unfortunately, despite its benefits, the DV lottery faces powerful challengers, including President Donald Trump. In fact, the president has declared his dislike for the DV lottery, claiming that it allows countries to send their “worst people.” Despite such hatful rhetoric, at this time Trump has not yet moved to dissemble it. Despite this, it’s crucial to examine the DV lottery’s critical role in U.S. immigration. Hopefully, the program will continue to offer opportunity to thousands throughout the world.
The article reviews the basics of the DV lottery program. What is it and when did it start? Who is eligible to apply for the lottery? Additionally, we will review the importance of the lottery.
Overview of the Diversity Visa Program
The Diversity Visa (DV) lottery program has served immigrant communities for nearly 30 years. Created as part of the Immigration Act of 1990, the intention of the DV lottery was to encourage the immigration of foreign nationals from specific countries. Based on program guidelines, countries become eligible based on their immigration records from the previous five-years. To this day, the DV lottery has succeeded in its goal: providing immigration opportunities to people who otherwise likely wouldn’t leave their native land.
Each year, the U.S. State Department allocates 50,000 diversity visas available via the lottery. Additionally, because diversity visas are only available to people from specific countries, the State Department also defines who is eligible each year. After all applications are received, a computer chooses candidates via a randomized process, or lottery. Once chosen, the true application process begins and winners face long and complicated screenings, interviews, and other hurdles before receiving their diversity visa. Additionally, once candidates officially pass vetting and receive their visas, they are eligible for an adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident (LPR), which means they can receive green cards.
Again, it’s important to highlight that any winner of the diversity visa lottery is not guaranteed acceptance into the U.S. They must undergo all screenings typical required via the U.S. immigration system. In fact, the lottery selects 100,000 “winners” with the knowledge that the stringent application process will winnow the acceptance list closer to 50,000. This means that the strict screening and review process has a 50% acceptance rate even for lottery “winners.”
Who is Eligible to Apply?
Each year, the exact list of who can apply for diversity visas may change. The State Department chooses the eligibility list, based on specific criteria, annually. Most importantly, the diversity visa lottery aims to provide immigration opportunities to people from countries with low immigration histories. This is calculated by the State Department by examining immigration data from the previous five years.
If any country has had less than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. within a five-year period, then the State Department considers it “low immigration” status. Citizens of these countries are eligible to enter the lottery. But this changes year-by-year and any country may surpass the limit and thus be excluded. Countries that are typically excluded from lottery participation include those nations that have historically high amounts of U.S. immigrants, including Mexico, China, and India.
Lottery by Design
The U.S. designed the DV lottery process to be as fair as possible to all applicants. Thus, the program separates eligible countries into six geographical areas, each with their own specified geographical allotments. Additionally, there are limits on winners from each individual nation – only up to 7% of visas, roughly 3,500 in total, can be awarded to citizens from any one country.
Again, only a few countries are not eligible for DV consideration – these include Pakistan, Mainland China, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Jamaica, and Mexico. For an entire list of eligible and non-eligible nations, you can visit the State Department’s instructions for DV lottery applicants.
How Many People Apply for Diversity Visas Annually?
Each year, millions of foreign nationals apply for the diversity visa lottery. In fact, according to the State Department, during fiscal year (FY) 2018 roughly 14.5 million people entered the DV lottery worldwide. In addition to the entrants, 8.39 million derivative applicants, like children or spouses, also registered for the lottery. If you are interested in viewing totals separated by year, entrant type, and/or country of origin, you can access them here.
DV Lottery Program
Without a doubt, diversity visas help thousands of people across the world access new lives and careers in America. And because the DV lottery is only accessible to people from “low immigration” countries, it ensures that America’s immigrant population is as diverse as possible. For some people, the DV lottery is the only way to apply for a green card.
The fact that millions of foreign nationals apply each year for the DV lottery proves that it is a viable and popular option. This is especially true considering that millions are applying for a relatively small amount of annual visas (50,000). America’s historical reputation was one of opportunity – the DV lottery continues this honorable history.
The DV lottery allows “trailblazers” the opportunity to come to the United States and build careers, families, and homes. Winners imbed in their communities and contribute to the economy and labor force. The Stanford Law Review states that the DV lottery, by encouraging new immigrants from “low-immigration” nations, “[maintains] the competitiveness of the U.S. labor force.” Any program that both creates opportunity for individuals and boosts nationwide entities is both important and worthy of continuation.
Questions? Contact an Experienced Immigration Lawyer
If you or a loved one have applied for or are considering the Diversity Visa lottery, contact an experienced immigration attorney. Remember, avoid scams and only work with an attorney certified by your state’s bar association. Only a skilled lawyer can help you navigate the complicated U.S. immigration system. This can include paperwork and applications, interviews, and background checks. Additionally, proper legal counsel can help immensely should you face delay or denial of your case or application.
The lawyers at Davis & Associates proudly provide top-tier legal representation to the Miami area. If you have any questions regarding any immigration concern or case, contact us today. You can schedule a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys – you’ll leave with an action plan. No matter your case – diversity visa, family green card sponsorship, deportation, or DACA – we’re here to help.