Immigration through the Diversity Lottery: The Green Card

Formally known as the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, the “green card” lottery provides a path to US citizenship for fifty thousand people every year. The program offers visas to people from regions and nations that have low US immigration rates. Some laud the program as a model for other diversity programs, but critics say that it blocks immigrants from other countries not on the list; they also say that the program is vulnerable to various frauds.

The Diversity Lottery program was begun in 1995 and it is open to applicants from low-immigration countries. As of this year, applicants have to prove that they have a high school diploma or its equivalent, or show a minimum of two years’ experience in a skilled occupation. The application period is two months, and this year over twelve million people applied for the fifty thousand available visas. Excluded countries include China, Canada, Mexico, Pakistan, the UK, and Colombia.

Current immigration status could also prove to be an obstacle for some applicants. Only legal immigrants already on a temporary visa are eligible; however, they don’t need to be sponsored and there is no language or age requirement.

In reality, the lottery program awards more than fifty thousand visas, but only that number are actually procured. To get citizenship, lottery winners must be interviewed and prove their qualifications. Getting an interview quickly means a better chance of getting a visa. Since it was started, the program has seen its share of controversy. There have been various attempts to legislate it out of existence, because of perceived loopholes that critics say leaves the program open to abuse. Others say that the lottery is unfair to immigrants from other countries, who may have to wait years for citizenship.

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