It’s been a while since I discussed quotas, and there has been a lot of confusion and disinformation about quotas just over the last few days so I thought I would recap some important points about the global and regional quotas.

First, it is important to understand that most aspects of the DV process are determined by laws. These laws don’t change rapidly – so the laws have to be written in language that allows the government to run the process. So – for example, the regional “split” of the global quota is not published as a set of numbers to be updated each year, but rather is described in legal wording, referring to datapoints that can be found.


OK, so let’s discuss a few facts.


The original allocation for the DV lottery is 55,000 visas (Green Cards) annually. One person, one visa. Derivatives count toward that number (so a winner with a spouse and one child would need 3 visas).

Since 1999, the NACARA program has been allocated 5,000 of the 55,000 visas annually. That reduces the visas available to the DV program to to 50,000 visas. However, the Nacara program is not using all the visas allocated annually, and since some years since 1999 have exceeded the 50,000 number, it seems likely that DV has been allowed to use some of the 5,000 in some years. This does not happen every year, and not since DV-2014, but it has happened 4 times in the last fourteen years.

Countries are not given an allocation of visas. No country. None. The visas are allocated by region, and selectees are given a chance for interview in case number order, with some per country exceptions. There is a limit of 7% of the global allocation (so 3500) that cannot be exceeded by any one country. That limit has been treated as 7% of 55,000 in past years – so that may be the way the limit is enforced.

The global allocation of visas is distributed among the regions in a way to promote diversity. The rules are described in the Immigration and Nationality Act – section 203(c). So – to interpret the rules you have to determine the per country populations. You can research the populations in the CIA world factbook.  You also have to know which countries or regions are high and low admission. You can research that in the immigration yearbooks.  Now – if you have the stamina and interest, feel free to go and interpret the rule, check the populations and immigration statistics and come up with the quota for any year you like. Thankfully, a forum user DV4Roger did the legwork and has produced percentage quotas for a number of recent years, as well as DV2018 and DV2019.

The quotas change from year to year due to population changes, but also based on countries eligible to participate in the lottery. DV4Roger has factored that into the calculations. I consider the calculated numbers to be accurate (as far as we can know). So – here they are:


As you can see, these are expressed as percentages. The percentages show the “split” between the regions based on the total number of visas available/issed. So – at 50,000, EU for instance would have a total quota of 18,288 in DV2018. For each 1000 more than 50,000 (or less) that number will increase (or decrease) by 366 visas. That is the “quota”.

Now – what does the quota mean. It is the amount of visas each region should get, relative to the other regions. The number does not HAVE TO be reached, and in some circumstances, can be exceeded (more on that later). However, the quotas are a good indicator of what will happen in any given year. They also show the impact of countries being included or excluded from the eligible countries.

So – based on the number of visas issued in each year (the global total), it is interesting to see what have been the quota amounts, and how those numbers have been met, or not met, or even exceeded. So – here are the quotas after the percentage has been applied to the actuals for each year.


The actuals come from the official numbers published here (which include AOS cases).

Now – let’s then compare to the per region totals that were actually given to see how often the numbers are above or below the quotas.


The numbers in red show the times when the quotas were exceeded. As you can see, it can happen in any region and has happened in at least one region per year.

Why does this happen?

Well there are several answers. The first is that the law allows some redistribution of unused visas. So for instance, in DV2017, AF region went current (all cases could be interviewed) but even with that it was obvious that there would be a surplus of AF region visas compared to the quota (and to a lesser degree, Asia too). So – those surplus visas were distributed and EU and SA region were able to benefit. The same thing happened in DV2015 although that was somewhat bizarre because there were many AF selectees left not current at the end of the year. Neverthless, the principle can be seen in practice.

As well as the redistribution, I think the old systems made it difficult to enforce the quotas. The DS260 was introduced in DV2015, prior to that there was a paper based system. Other improvements have been made and we saw DV2017 had very tight adherence to the global quota. Late approved AP cases and late AOS cases were left without visas last year – and the issued number was 24 visas under the 50,000. That is very hard to do considering the births, marriages, refusals and so on.

Then lastly there is the NACARA curveball. I have looked up immigration numbers through the NACARA program and found they are not using anything like the 5,000 allocation. So – there is some “reason” to believe DV can grab those back – BUT last year that did not happen, and as I mentioned it has not happened that often. I should also point out that DV4Roger recently discussed his belief that DV-2018 will see a global quota based on 55,000. I am ambivalent about that – partly because the VB pace does not seem to support that theory – but as the next VBs are revealed, we will see.

So bringing this back to reality. Could DV-2018 see some regions exceed the quotas? Yes it is possible. If the travel ban stays in force, AS region is unlikely to need all it’s quota. Unless issuance speed increases, AF region may not reach its quota. NACARA visas may be usable this year – there is no way to know if any of these factors will work out this year. So – although many people think they have the mathematical certainties nailed, I can say from experience that “WAIT and SEE” is still the best approach. We really don’t know what the last VBs will bring until we see them.

I hope that helps. There are still some that will not understand the whole concept – there is nothing I can do for those people. Some people will still believe in fairies.