A Majority of Immigrants from Three Nations Arrived via the Diversity Visa Lottery in FY 2019

By David North on January 18, 2022

While, on average, about 5 percent of America’s arriving legal immigrants come by way of the diversity visa lottery, three nations had a majority of their 2019 immigrants to the U.S. in that program. Typically, in an annual intake of one million or so legal immigrants, about 50,000 are from the lottery.

The three nations are Tajikistan, Algeria, and Azerbaijan; the first and last are former units of the old Soviet Union. Nearly three-quarters of the small group coming from Tajikistan got here via diversity visas.

We are using 2019 data rather than 2020 data (also available) as in the latter year COVID-19 reduced the intake of Diversity visa holders by half, to 25,028.

Of the seven nations with the highest percentages of these visas in their incoming cohorts in 2019, six were majority-Muslim, with Armenia the lone exception.

Table 1. Nations with the Highest
Percentage of Diversity Visas Compared
to All Immigrant Visas, FY 2019

Nation All Legal
Percentage of
Tajikistan 1,158 837 72.3%
Algeria 2,299 1,327 57.7%
Azerbaijan 1,168 640 54.7%
Turkmenistan 330 164 49.7%
Sudan 2,949 1,244 42.2%
Albania 5,366 2,139 39.9%
Armenia 3,101 1,208 38.9%

* Restricted to nations with 100 or more Diversity Visas in FY 2019.
Source: Table 10 in the 2019 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.

Stimulated by the results in Table 1, we took a look at the same data source to see which nations had sent us more than 1,000 lottery winners each during FY 2019. We found 14 of them, including four overlaps with Table 1.

Table 2. Nations with 1,000 or
More Lottery Winners in FY 2019

Nation Lottery
Egypt 3,313
Nepal 2,919
Congo (DRC) 2,638
Russia 2,190
Albania 2,139
Sudan 1,944
Ukraine 1,907
Ethiopia 1,520
Cameroon 1,403
Turkey 1,356
Algeria 1,327
Armenia 1,208
Morocco 1,183
Kenya 1,139

Source: Table 10 in the 2019 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.

More than 22 million people applied for the diversity visa lottery in 2019 or were related to applicants. One has to have a high school diploma or to have a certain modest level of skill to apply for the lottery, and to live in a nation that has not historically sent us large numbers of migrants. More recently, in a sensible move, the State Department has required that applicants have a passport, which acts to reduce the numbers a bit. Aliens must apply online and there are no fees if you do not win a slot.

With 50,000 visas set aside for this program, an alien in 2019 had about one chance in 440 to win. Thus very large numbers of them must have applied in places that produced the larger numbers noted above. Egypt, for example, had a total of 1,398,183 applicants and their dependents that year.

For more on the diversity visa lottery and its weaknesses, see this CIS video produced by my colleagues Mark Krikorian and Bryan Griffith.