U.S. Visa Program Attracts 11 Million Applicants

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Lawmakers May be Poised to End the Green Card Lottery

An annual U.S. visa lottery program that offers immigrants a chance to become permanent residents drew more than 11 million applicants this year, even as lawmakers appear poised to end it.
DV lottery Ethiopia
The so-called “diversity visa program” attracted 21% more entries this year than last year, according to the State Department, which means fewer than 0.5% of applicants will receive visas distributed by sheer luck of the draw.
The program, created in 1990 to promote diversity in the immigrant pool, has drawn as many as 14.8 million applicants in a year. But its fate is unclear.
Under a Senate immigration bill that passed last year, the lottery would be eliminated, and analysts say it is unlikely to survive if lawmakers pass a broad overhaul of the immigration system.
Critics contend the program poses security risks, brings in low-skilled immigrants and unfairly helps individuals with no connection to the U.S. enter the country more easily than those sponsored by relatives and employers.
“A lottery is not a way to run an immigration system,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration professor at Cornell Law School. “It doesn’t strengthen family ties, promote our economic interests, or rescue refugees. Congress should abolish the program.”
Taxi drivers, high-tech entrepreneurs and football players are among the immigrants who have gained U.S. entry through the program.
Some key backers of the green-card lottery are members of the Congressional Black Caucus. They favor the relatively small program—it accounts for about 5% of legal immigrants to the U.S. each year—because it benefits many Africans, who often don’t have the chance to immigrate through family connections or work sponsorship.
“We must continue our tradition of welcoming people from around the world to the United States,” said Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, a Democrat from Brooklyn. “I will work to expand the program, which has been critical for many people from Africa, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe who would not otherwise have the opportunity to come here.”
The annual lottery creates a frenzy in countries such as Ethiopia, where hundreds of thousands of applicants line up at Internet kiosks and post offices to complete electronic entries. The monthlong enrollment period this year ended Nov. 3.
The program is open to people from the world over, except countries that already have a large number of nationals in the U.S., such as Mexico, China and India. No special skills are required; a high-school diploma suffices. Lottery winners eventually qualify for U.S. citizenship.
After an electronic drawing is held in Kentucky next May, about 100,000 applicants will be notified that they may formally apply for the visa—twice as many as ultimately will be eligible to move to the U.S. They will then be interviewed and undergo background checks and medical exams. The first 50,000 deemed eligible will receive visas.
There is no limit to how many times a person can enter the lottery, but no country can represent more than 7% of the total visas issued in a single year. Last year, more than half of all recipients were from Africa.
Source: http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-visa-program-attracts-11-million-applicants-1415250362


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