Taxpayers Losing Potential Quarter of a Billion Dollars in Casino Visa Program

By David North on December 23, 2009

While I think the Casino Visa program is a terrible idea, as I argued in a previous blog – granting 55,000 totally needless "diversity" visas by lottery to people with no U.S. connections – we taxpayers might as well get something out of it if it has to continue.

How about a quarter of a billion dollars a year?

Earlier this year the State Department predicted it would receive 13 million applications from inside and outside the U.S. for what they call the Diversity Visa program.

The 55,000 who actually receive immigration visas pay hundreds of dollars in fees for each visa, but the other 12,945,000 pay nothing to enter the lottery.

Perhaps I am cynical, but this strikes me as a terrible waste of badly needed federal income.

If state lotteries raise money for schools by convincing foolish people to buy what usually turns out to be a losing lottery ticket, why can't the State Department do something similar with the people gambling in the Visa Casino, both the losers and the winners?

I suggest a $20 fee for each entry. This would discourage some from entering, which is fine, but would produce a huge return for the U.S. Treasury. If the discouragement shaved the participation down to say, 12.5 million, that number times $20 would equal a quarter of a billion dollars. If it cut it by more than a half, to six million entries, it would still provide the Treasury with $120 million.

The $20 is an arbitrary figure, but it matches our $20 bills; it is large enough to be useful in terms of the national debt, and of sufficient size to warrant the individual handling of the proposed Diversity Application Fees (DAF).

As to how to handle the cash, my notion would be that the Bureau of Printing and Engraving would print tens of millions of the DAFs; they would be non-refundable, good only for the lottery of a single year, and transferable. The individual DAF bill would be like a piece of paper money, except that it would die at the end of the lottery filing process.

The DAFs would be on sale at U.S. consulates and embassies abroad, and at DHS offices in the United States. The decision as to whether one needs to pay U.S. dollars for the DAF overseas, or one could use foreign currencies, I leave to better brains than mine. That they could be bought and sold would, I should think, lead to more sales but could not lead to more than 55,000 green cards.

The DAFs would only be on offer in the United States, and in those nations whose citizens could use the Diversity Visas. While I think it would be appropriate for the design to show the Statue of Liberty presiding at a roulette wheel, the somber folks in the State Department probably would think otherwise.

The beauty of this proposal is that it would raise a lot of money – but at the expense of no American voter. It could buy a lot of immigration enforcement or help pay off our debt.

Go Congress!