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Understanding the United States Diversity Visa Lottery Program

After a deadly terrorist attack resulted in the deaths of eight people in New York, U.S. President Donald Trump posted a Twitter update that signaled his intention to terminate the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, more commonly known as the “visa lottery.” It so happens that Sayfullo Saipov, the prime suspect in the aforementioned attack, was allowed to enter the U.S. under this program.

President Trump has expressed a desire to replace the current program with one that awards visas on a merit basis. At least one Republican Member of Congress has taken action based on Trump’s suggestion. Republican House Representative Martha McSally of Arizona, a retired Air Force Colonel, formally introduced a bill that echoes Trump’s idea to end the visa lottery and create more work visas instead. 

The visa lottery program was initially created by the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1990 to allow more Irish and Italian nationals to enter the U.S. and strengthen the roots established within communities where those immigrants have historically settled. In the beginning, the program was as successful as initially intended because people in those two European nations were enjoying a period of strong economic prosperity. Later, the visa lottery program was expanded to allow people from other countries to apply. 

Diversity has always been a significant component of the American way of life. This much is reflected by the designation of the Statue of Liberty as a national symbol that welcomed immigrants from European nations to New York more than a century ago. The visa lottery has been amended over the years to admit more immigrants from nations that are underrepresented in the U.S. Many of these countries are in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe.

Applications for the 2019 visa lottery program, officially known as DV-2019, are now available for individuals from countries located across six major regions of the world. The State Department will grant 50,000 visas, which will be randomly drawn and granted to immigrants who meet the entry requirements. More than a dozen countries, such as the United Kingdom, Colombia, Mexico, South Korea, and Brazil, are excluded from the DV-2019 program since those are already high-admission nations. 

The online enrollment period for the program started on October 18th, 2017. As much as Trump likes to criticize the visa lottery program, some requirements are considered merit-based. For example, applicants must have completed education equivalent to 12 years of American primary and secondary education. Moreover, applicants must also have two years of skilled work experience. 

Being selected in the visa lottery does not grant automatic entry. Applicants must still clear admissibility requirements and become eligible to enter per the stipulation of Form DS-260 and the approval of a consular officer. In other words, the DV-2019 program already requires many of the merits Trump has suggested are necessary to obtain an immigrant visa. San Diego immigrants who are concerned about their eligibility should speak with a trusted immigration lawyer.

If you need information on U.S. citizenship services in San Diego, reach out to KS Visa Law today. From K-1 visas to temporary employment visas, our expertise in immigration law is significant. Call 858-874-0711 today to schedule an appointment.

May 2024