Diversity Visa Lottery: Threats to U.S. National Security

Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Richard Worch


The diversity visa (DV) lottery was created as part of a larger immigration bill in 1990 in order to diversify an immigrant pool that has favored Asian and Hispanic immigrants since the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Traditional research on the national security ramifications of immigration policy has focused on highly publicized issues, such as illegal immigration and asylum and amnesty programs, to the exclusion of the risks of fraud and terrorism inherent in the DV lottery. The purpose of this qualitative single case study was to explore the national security vulnerabilities of the DV lottery. Open-ended interviews were conducted with a snowball sample of 10 foreign service officers who adjudicate lottery visas for U.S. immigration from nations designated as state sponsors of terror. Guided by the framework of systems theory and the theory of constraints, content analysis was employed to reveal patterns and themes in the data. The findings were consonant with the framework, revealing the barriers and vulnerabilities of the DV lottery. Other findings showed both that the DV lottery has a negative impact on U.S. national security and fraud remains a serious concern, and yet there was no consensus on the scope and origin of potential terrorist threats. Recommendations include increasing collaboration and integration among agencies implementing the DV lottery, developing information-sharing agreements with other countries, and taking measures to eliminate fraud. The implications for social change include informing the public, immigration agencies, academics, and policy makers about the vulnerability of the DV lottery to fraud and misrepresentation; enhancing the debate about balancing immigration policies and national security; and possibly ending the DV lottery.

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