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Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde January 31, 2018

Donald Trump leaves out the facts in claim about visa lottery

President Donald Trump in his State of the Union address outlined changes he’s seeking to immigration laws, including the end to the diversity visa lottery program.

Trump said his administration presented a four-pillar proposal "that should be supported by both parties as a fair compromise."

"The third pillar ends the visa lottery — a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of American people," Trump said Jan. 30.

Trump mischaracterized the program. He failed to note that individuals who come to the United States through the lottery program must be vetted by the United States and also must meet certain education and work criteria.

The White House did not respond to our request for comment on the record.

Here are the facts.

Applicants must meet education or work experience criteria

The visa lottery program was established in 1990 to diversify the United States’ immigrant population. The lottery began in 1995 and selects applicants from countries with low immigration levels during the previous five years. Diversity visas are currently capped at 50,000 per fiscal year.

It’s worth noting that entries chosen in the lottery do not automatically get a visa, they only become eligible to apply for it.

Applicants must meet education or work experience requirements, according to the U.S. State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:

• At least a high school education or its equivalent, defined as successful completion of a 12-year course of formal elementary and secondary education; or

• Two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform.

Potential immigrants must undergo vetting by U.S. government

Visa lottery applicants can include a spouse and children in their application. While only the applicant has to meet the education and work requirement, all potential travelers must be thoroughly vetted by the United States.

Applicants who pass a vetting process are awarded the diversity visa.

Information reviewed in the vetting process includes passport, police and medical records, photographs, English translations of documents, and education or work experience credentials.

"No visa can be issued unless all concerns raised by the screening are fully resolved. As part of this screening process, information that might suggest an individual is a potential threat is shared with all appropriate U.S. government agencies," a State Department official previously told us.

"National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications," the agency added.

Our ruling

Trump said the visa lottery program "randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people."

While lottery applicants are randomly selected, they must meet education and work experience requirements. They must also be vetted by the United States government before being allowed to come to the United States.

We rate Trump’s claim False.

Share the Facts
PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Says the visa lottery "randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people."
in State of the Union address
Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Our Sources

Email interview, White House press office, Jan. 30, 2018

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Green Card Through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, Last Reviewed/Updated: 01/11/2018

PolitiFact, Diversity visa applicants are vetted, despite contrary claim from White House press secretary, Nov. 2, 2017

PolitiFact, Pick them from a bin? Donald Trump mischaracterizes diversity visa lottery, Dec. 20, 2017

State Department, Diversity Visa - Prepare Supporting Documents

State Department, Instructions for the 2019 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (Dv-2019

State Department, Diversity Visa - Applicant Interview

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Donald Trump leaves out the facts in claim about visa lottery

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