USCIS Director Cissna Advocates for Ending Diversity Visa Lottery and Restricting Family Immigration

Washington, D.C., December 8, 2017 – According to an opinion piece published in The Hill newspaper, the current Director of U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”) believes that the United States should eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery, and restrict family-based immigration.

The Diversity Visa Lottery is an immigration program that allows persons from countries that have not sent many immigrants to the United States to apply for a yearly lottery offering a chance to obtain U.S. lawful permanent resident status (i.e., a green card).  The Diversity Visa Lottery has a yearly pool of 50,000 green cards, which are made available on a regional priority basis across the world to applicants who have completed high school and have no serious criminal convictions. The regional allocation of Diversity Visa Lottery favors visa slots to persons from countries hailing from Europe or Africa to have a chance at a green card, compared to persons from countries such as India, China or Mexico – which have traditionally sent many immigrants to the United States.

Director Francis Cissna’s call for limiting family-based immigration seeks to limit the scope of family reunification categories. Such proposals have been discussed on Capitol Hill in recent years.  At present, family sponsored green cards allows U.S. citizens or U.S. green card holders to sponsor their spouse or children under age 21 who are unmarried. Additionally, family sponsorship for green cards is available to parents and siblings of U.S. citizens.  While spouses, minor aged children or parents are not subject to green card waiting lists, the waiting lists for all other family sponsored categories are significant, reaching even decades of waiting for siblings of U.S. citizens.

Director Cissna argues that both the Diversity Visa and family reunification visa categories do not bring qualified immigrants to the United States and suffer from security concerns.  Instead, the Director argues instead for a points-based system that would award priority to persons with skills, language proficiency or capital.  The Director, however, does not indicate how security concerns would be improved under a points-based system in comparison to thorough background checks and security clearances for all immigrants put in place since the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

For decades, the U.S. immigration system has adopted two guiding principles: family reunification for family-sponsored green cards, and employment sponsorship for work-based green cards.

A link to Director CIssna’s article is set out below:



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