News / USA

US Green Card Lottery Under Threat

Immigration Reform May Spell End for Green Card Lotteryi
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May 17, 2013 3:56 PM
The popular Green Card Lottery program could be eliminated if the U.S. Congress passes the current version of the bipartisan immigration reform plan. The lottery was set up as a way to give anyone a chance at the "American dream." But as VOA’s Brian Padden reports, the new plan will focus instead on adding more highly-educated workers in science, technology, engineering and math.]]
Brian Padden
The popular Green Card Lottery program could be eliminated if the U.S. Congress passes the current version of the bipartisan immigration reform plan. The lottery was set up as a way to give anyone a chance at the "American dream." But the new plan will focus instead on adding more highly-educated workers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Two years ago Rafiq-ul-Islam won a U.S. permanent resident visa through the Green Card Lottery and came to the United States from Bangladesh -- with little more than the clothing he owned and a dream of a better life in America.  

“I apply for [and] came [to] America. I want to change my luck. If I can change my luck I can support my family, everything, all will be changed, everything like, that’s why I applied,” he said.

The late Senator Edward Kennedy came up with the idea for a visa lottery system in the 1990s -- as a way to give opportunity to European and other countries with low immigration quotas. The lottery program -- officially known as the diversity visa -- is relatively small, granting about 50,000 visas compared to the more than one million new green cards issued each year.

The lucky winners like ul-Islam must pass a background check, but need only a high school degree or work experience to qualify.  Immigration attorney Rajiv Khanna says the diversity visa has come to symbolize core American values.

“But United States is blessed and perhaps cursed with that unique vision we have, that we are as a nation, a citizen of the world community.  And we have to accommodate certain things in good conscience and good faith rather than as a matter of self-interest,” Khanna said.

But under the proposed immigration reform plan being considered by the U.S. Congress, the diversity visa faces elimination.  Instead, the plan would expand opportunities for professionals like Bhushan Parekh who hold advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.  Parekh’s H-1B professional visa was sponsored by a major U.S. company.

“Because I had done the engineering in India, the 4-year degree, and I’d also worked in India for a year after.  During the interview process it was very apparent to them that I had the management skills they were looking for,” Parekh said.

Some members of Congress oppose eliminating the diversity visa -- saying the U.S. should give some opportunity to the world's poor and disadvantaged.  But, in these hard economic times, Khanna says fairness is no longer the priority.

“So diversity by itself is no longer the virtue that we seek in our current immigration system as proposed.  What we seek instead is, ‘What can you do for us?,’” Khanna said.

Khanna says while U.S. businesses are lobbying for more professional visas, the poor from developing countries have no such powerful sponsors.

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by: Nina from: Naples, FL
May 17, 2013 2:28 PM
There's something really wrong when someone who may not even speak English and may have very little in the way of work experience, can win a lottery and get greencards for himself and his family, when Those who come on E2 visas, invest money and create jobs for Americans have no path to permanent residency.


E2 visa holders jump through all the hoops for the chance to live and work here legally. It's very upsetting to know others are getting green cards just because they've been lucky.

Good riddance to the diversity lottery. Let those who actually contribute to America stay.

In Response

by: Nina from: Naples
June 13, 2013 10:04 AM
Well, dear, the Green Card Lottery is being abolished in favor of those who will benefit the United States. Those visas will now go to people who have worked hard and earned the right and privilege.

BTW - I have no jealousy or hate, just a sense of right and wrong.

In Response

by: Ella
June 12, 2013 2:39 PM
It is called a Green Card Lottery dear. Is it fair when the richest of people win the money lottery as opposed to the poorest? It's not fair indeed but it is called a Lottery and we have no power over it. Don't be jelous and hating just because your life is harder than the others...


by: david
May 16, 2013 6:21 PM
i don´t agree with green cards lottery because lots of the people that apply could be terrorist, and that´s one thing americans don´t want in this country

In Response

by: Ella
June 12, 2013 2:42 PM
Terrorist will find their way to come in this country or any other country if they wanted to. It would be like not going to the mall or to any other popular place thinking that there might be terrorist around. Lottery doesn't bring more terrorist over. It just gives many honest families a chance to live and work in the US. US is so big and there's a place for everybody if you want to make something of yourself.

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