Yes, the U.S. Should Scrap the Diversity Visa Lottery



In 1990, the Diversity Visa Lottery program began disbursing 55,000 green cards to randomized foreign nationals hailing from countries with supposedly low rates of immigration. Stipulated in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1990, members of Congress created this immigration category as a ploy to distribute more visas to Irish citizens who wanted to migrate to the United States.

The U.S. Department of State recently announced the results of the Diversity Visa Lottery program for fiscal year 2022. The top 10 countries that benefited the most from the program and the number of associated qualified applicants are as follows: Egypt (6,005), Sudan (6,001), Russia (6,001), Algeria (6,001), Uzbekistan (6,001), Iran (5,739), Ukraine (4,949), Morocco (4,138), Nepal (3,802), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (3,347).

Each year, millions of individuals in qualifying countries apply for a chance to be permanent residents in the United States. Unfortunately, this faulty program does not pick individuals based on employable skills, education level, or English-speaking proficiency. Instead, the selection process relies on mere chance rather than merit; a computer program selects recipients of the visa lottery at random.

The visa lottery also worsens chain migration, meaning that more than the initial 55,000 will enter the country over time. This is because visa lottery recipients can turn around and sponsor family members, allowing more immigrants to enter the United States based on bloodlines over skills. The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that the visa lottery has likely brought more than 3.8 million immigrants between 1994 and 2016, thanks to the chain migration.

Additionally, the program poses an immense national security risk. In the 2017 New York City terrorist truck attack that claimed the lives of eight people and injured nearly a dozen others, the perpetrator entered the United States through the Diversity Visa Lottery program. In addition, many nations that participate in the visa lottery are terror-prone such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. It makes no sense to have a program that is vulnerable to abuse by known or suspected terrorists and carries no stated benefit for the United States.  

Rather than scrapping this ridiculous program, President Joe Biden has signaled that he plans to expand it from 55,000 green cards to 80,000. Instead, President Biden should abandon his decision to expand this program and consider enacting the RAISE Act. The bill would eliminate the visa lottery program, put an end to chain migration, which would tailor our immigration system to serve the economic, security, and merit-based needs of the United States. Under a merit-based system, individuals from the same countries covered by the visa lottery program could still apply for a visa, but whether that application is approved would depend on what they can contribute to American society, not random chance.

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