Fact Sheet-Diversity Visa & APIs

An immigrant visa (IV) is issued to a person wishing to live permanently in the U.S. A nonimmigrant visa (NIV) is issued to a person with permanent residence outside the United States, but wishes to be in the U.S. on a temporary basis for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study, as examples.

In light of recent terrorist attacks, the Diversity Visa has been under attack by President Trump and politicians. On November 1st, following an attack in New York, Trump tweeted “The terrorist came into our country through what is called the “Diversity Visa Lottery Program,” a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.” In President Trump’s opinion, the Diversity Visa lets bad people into the United States. In an address to the graduates of the FBI National Academy he said, “They give us their worst people, put them in a bin… they’re picking the worst of the worst, congratulations you’re going to the US.” Since then, Trump has endorsed a bill from Senator Chuck Grassley, called the Secure and Succeed Act of 2018 which includes a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and money for security but also significant limits to legal immigration, including family-based migration and the Diversity Visa lottery.

The Diversity Visa was first put in place to offset the tendency of immigrants who come from a few select source countries. Natives from countries that have sent more 50,000 immigrants in the past 5 years are not eligible to apply for the Diversity Visa. This includes countries such as: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, mainland China, Colombia, South Korea, Philippines, Vietnam and others that are listed in the DV-2018, Diversity Visa instructions. 50,000 of Diversity Visas are given out a year through a lottery system. Of these 50,000, most come from Eastern Europe and Africa. 38.9% of Diversity Visa recipients came from the African continent in 2017, 21.7% came from Eastern Europe, and 1.4% from Oceania.

Applicants to the visa lottery system do go through an extensive vetting system. Applicants must have a high school education or its equivalent, or a two years in an occupation which requires at least two years of training or experience. The applicant or applicant’s spouse must be a native of one of the countries that qualifies for the diversity lottery.

People chosen by the lottery must file the necessary paperwork before coming, including submitting fingerprints, digital photographs, electronic applications, and go through two in-person interviews at the U.S. consulate before they are allowed to enter the country. Their names are vetted and checked against crime and terrorism databases. These procedures have been the methods used by the U.S. for naturalization for years, and it works the same way for Diversity Visa entrants. So the Diversity Visa does not inherently have procedural factors that would increase the likelihood of admitting terrorists than any other visa. The Diversity Visa does bring diversity to the United States from countries that otherwise does not have many other pathways to enter this country. One significant group that have felt the positive impact of the Diversity Visa is Asian Pacific Islanders.

What sets the Diversity Visa apart from most other visas that it does not require the applicant to already have family members within the United States, which is what the immediate relatives and family visas do. Therefore, the Diversity Visa is a visa for people that do not fit in the criteria for the other visas, many of which contain requirements most suited for natives of well-developed countries, or countries which under different immigrant policies in the past were able to establish a population in the U.S.

In our analysis we focused only on the numbers for the diversity and family visas, which overall for Asian Pacific Islander nations are the two most common visas for people to enter the United States. This information is open and free to the public through the Visa Office on the U.S. Department of State website.

An example of how this works in the favor for some countries is Japan, where the number of Diversity Visas make up 45.1% of the 159 family and Diversity Visas in 2017.

Second most common visa for Fijians is the Diversity Visa, which made up 45.7% of the 468 family and Diversity Visas combined in 2017.

In 2017, 25.5% of visas Tongans came to the U.S. with are Diversity Visas.

Nepal has a significant number of people applying for the Diversity Visa, 3477 in 2017, which is 76.6% of the total.

Iran also has around the same number applicants for diversity and family visas in 2017, Diversity Visas are 49.5% while family visas are 50.4%. This is an example of even when the natives of a country have family in the states, it shows that people also take advantage of coming into the country through other ways just as much. The Diversity Visa is important to this countries.

Saudi Arabia’s diversity immigrants make up 33.3% of the total of diversity and family immigrants, so its diversity numbers are not insignificant in comparison to the total it sends annually.


Comparison of Diversity and Family Visas in Oceania and Asia

Source: U.S. Department of State Visa Office

Oceania Countries Diversity 2017 Family 2017 Total Visas by Country Diversity Percentage of Family+Diversity
Fiji 214 254 608 46.7%
Kiribati 0 0 1 N/A
Marshall Islands 0 0 10 N/A
Micronesia 0 0 0 N/A
Nauru 0 0 0 N/A
Palau 0 0 3 N/A
Papau New Guinea 1 0 6 10%
Samoa 0 13 34 0%
Solomon Islands 0 0 2 N/A
Tonga 24 70 121 25.5%
Tuvalu 2 0 1 100%
Vanuatu 0 0 0 N/A
East Asia
China – mainland born Not Eligible 15401 35350 Not Eligible
China – Taiwan born 160 728 1515 18%
Hong Kong S.A.R. 18 834 1128 2.1%
Japan 117 142 1450 45.1%
Korea, North 0 2 3 0%
Korea, South* Not Eligible 1381 4893 Not Eligible
Macau 30 183 14%
Mongolia 97 33 226 74.6%
South Asia
Afghanistan 144 338 17671 29.8%
Bangladesh Not Eligible 6970 12331 Not Eligible
Bhutan 7 7 37 50%
Maldives 0 0 1 Not Eligible
Nepal 3477 1061 6326 76.6%
India Not Eligible 15361 27303 Not Eligible
Pakistan Not Eligible 6242 12143 Not Eligible
Sri Lanka 160 237 716 40.3%
Southeast Asia
Burma 148 556 1309 21%
Brunei 0 0 2 N/A
Cambodia 198 687 3400 22.3%
Indonesia 41 188 561 17.9%
Laos 0 99 296 0%
Malaysia 30 161 404 15.7%
Philippines Not Eligible 13801 30410 Not Eligible
Singapore 9 57 180 13.6%
Thailand 19 281 1337 6.3%
Timore-Leste 0 0 0 N/A
Vietnam Not Eligible 18152 28719 Not Eligible
West Asia
Bahrain 1 8 28 11.1%
Iran 2106 2143 6643 49.5%
Iraq 150 338 3720 30.7%
Israel 34 128 560 20.9%
Jordan 96 1765 4272 5.1%
Kuwait 45 188 468 19.3%
Lebanon 41 817 1806 4.7%
Oman 6 7 32 46.1%
Palestinian Authority Travel N/A N/A N/A N/A
Qatar 9 27 86 25%
Saudi Arabia 111 224 721 33.1%
Syria 128 1217 2551 9.5%
United Arab Emirates 31 193 511 13.8%
Yemen 267 1564 5419 14.5%

*Countries that have a “Not Eligible” in the Diversity Visa column are ones that are not eligible for the visa and therefore have no statistics for it