Much Internal Diversity within the Diversity Visa Program

By David North on November 21, 2013

There turns out to be a great deal of internal diversity of visa outcomes within the Diversity Visa (DV) program that grants green cards to a random assortment of up to 50,000 aliens a year.

This dawned on me as I examined, in an earlier blog, a report of the State Department's Inspector General on the extent of fraud (and detected fraud) within the DV program in Ukraine.

The names and IDs of lots of those who had been selected by America's computers were in turn captured by computer-savvy Ukrainian fraudsters and later detected by America's diplomats, so green cards were not awarded when the facts became known. As a matter of fact, as the table below shows, only about one quarter of those initially selected for the DV program in Ukraine wound up getting visas — while, at the other end of the spectrum, almost two-thirds of the DV selectees in Uzbekistan were granted visas.

Success Rates of Diversity Visa Selectees, Top Eight Nations, 2012

(Nations arrayed by success rates, i.e., ratio of admissions to selections)

Nation Selections in Lottery Admissions to U.S. Success Rate
Uzbekistan 4,800 3,062 63.80%
Iran 4,453 2,262 50.80%
Egypt 4,664 2,254 48.30%
Nigeria 6,024 2,352 39.00%
Ghana 5,832 2,220 38.10%
Ethiopia 4,902 1,718 35.00%
Kenya 4,720 1,331 28.50%
Ukraine 5,779 1,579 26.30%
World Total 100,021 40,320 40.30%

Sources: Column 2: Department of State Visa Office. Column 3: Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2012, Table 10. Column 4 shows column 3 as a percentage of column 2. Calculations by the Center for Immigration Studies.

The table shows the eight leading nations in terms of filing for, and computer-selection of, individuals for these visas, and the percentage of those initial selections that led to an entry to the United States. There are interviews and other checks made of the selectees before the actual visas are granted. The process starts with about 100,000 selectees, and this is winnowed down to less than 50,000.

Here we have two former republics of the Soviet Union with totally different success ratios in the arena of converting a U.S. Diversity selection into a Diversity Visa. Should not such a ratio be about the same all over the world? The ratio between the top and bottom ratios on the chart is on the order of 2.5 to one. What is going on here?

As I noted in the previous blog, there are three variables at play here: 1) the attractiveness of the offer to come to the United States — the more attractive life here appears, the higher the rate of acceptance; 2) the extent of fraud in the application process — the more of it, the lower the acceptance rate; and 3) the vigor with which the embassies pursue fraud — the more vigor, the lower the number of acceptances.

The attractiveness of the U.S. visa is not an open-and-shut case; many DV applicants seem to think that they will be helped financially to come to the States; this is not the case as they learn during the interview process. Further, there is a $330 per-person fee to be paid, something unknown to many applicants in the early stages. So some to many turn down the offer.

One possibility is that there is little fraud connected with the application process in Uzbekistan (where Internet fraud may not be very advanced) as opposed to in Ukraine. Further, the acceptance rate may be greater in the former nation because it has a much lower per capita GDP than Ukraine, about $3,600 as opposed to about $7,400. Another possibility is that our embassy's fraud detection effort, which the IG's report says is vigorous in Ukraine, is more relaxed in our embassy in Uzbekistan. The Afghan War continues just south of Uzbekistan and that must be a distraction. Or maybe all three factors are working at the same time and in the same direction.

The widely differing visa-issuance ratios shown in the table — a concept that I have never heard discussed before — is a reminder that the Diversity Visa operation is a strange little program and a needless addition to our already extravagant mix of ongoing immigration schemes.

It should be eliminated, and not be replaced by some other admissions system.