Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What is the Diversity Visa Lottery?

You may have heard people talking about "winning the lottery" when they explain how they came to the United States.  What exactly does "winning the lottery" mean?  Can just anyone get a visa by winning a lottery?

It is true that U.S. law provides for a lottery to make visas available for 50,000 people each year.  But, that is a deceptively simple way of explaining it.  The program is called the diversity visa lottery.  The idea is to give countries that have traditionally sent fewer immigrants to the United States the chance to have their nationals come to the United States.

Visas through the lottery are made available to countries that have sent the fewest immigrants to the United States in the last five years.  No on country can account for more than 7% of the total of visas available for that year.  Plus, there are qualifications that the immigrant must meet.  The immigrant must have a high school education, or have been working in an occupation that requires two years of training for two of the past five years.

The qualification requirement is where many applicants get tripped up.  There is no requirement that a person meet the qualifications to enter the lottery.  A foreigner simply registers for the lottery online when the registration is open.  This means that a person can win the lottery, think they have a visa, and then become greatly disappointed when the Consulate inform them that they don't have the required education or occupation.

At any rate, the lottery may be on its way out.  In all of the talk of immigration reform, some Republicans are proposing the elimination of the diversity visa lottery, and expanding the number of immigrant visas available to graduates with advanced degrees in science and engineering by 50,000.  Whether this happens remains to be seen.  A bill that would have eliminated the lottery almost passed the House of Representatives in September.

Click here and you can read more about the diversity visa lottery in another article I wrote on the subject.

By:  William J. Kovatch, Jr.
(703) 837-8832

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