What is DV Lottery?

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program awards up to 50,000 individuals per year a visa for a green card, which bestows permanent residency in the US and is a path to citizenship.

Opponents of immigration complain that the program brings people to the US to compete for jobs, and even supporters of immigration acknowledge the program does not tailor applicants to needs in the US.

Visas are awarded by random selection in select countries to promote immigration from places that don’t otherwise send many immigrants to the US.

Roughly 1 million green cards are issued by the US per year. In 2016, 45,664 diversity visas were issued. The vast majority of green cards are based on family connections, and other categories include employment-based visas and refugees or asylees.

How does it work?

Individuals in countries that are determined by a formula to have a low enough level of immigration to the US can apply for the visas at certain times each year. Most of the lottery recipients live outside the US, but a few are in the US legally on other visas.

According to the formula set out by law, countries that have had more than 50,000 natives immigrate to the US in the previous five years are ineligible.

The visas are distributed further by regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, North America (other than Mexico), Oceania and South America, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
The program is run by the State Department.

While individuals are selected for visas randomly, they still must meet security and eligibility requirements that all immigrants must clear to actually get their visas.

Diversity recipients specifically must also have at least a high school education or equivalent and must have had at least two years of experience working a job that requires at least two years of training or experience within five years of the date of the application. They must also be admissible to the US — categories of inadmissibility to the US broadly include terrorism connections.

The process also includes an in-person interview.

How did it get started?

The program was established in a bill passed in 1990, the Immigration Act. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — then a New York congressman — was one of 31 co-sponsors of the House version of the bill, spearheaded by Rep. Bruce Morrison, a Connecticut Democrat.

Schumer was credited with the concept of giving visas to countries with low admission rates to the US, which he developed in a different bill that he sponsored that was rolled into the broader law.

Morrison also promoted the bill as a way to legalize Irish immigrants, according to a 1990 report in The New York Times and an analysis of the development of the program from the group NumbersUSA, which advocates for sharp cuts in overall immigration.

The final bill passed the Senate 89-8 and the House 264-118.