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Immigration Lottery Begins Soon

Starting on October 5th, immigrants who want to reside in the United States can try their luck with the 'Diversity Visa Lottery,' a program that gives out green cards to a few people all over the world.

The U.S. Department of State has announced that registration for the annual Diversity Visa, or DV Lottery, will be held from October 5th to December 4th. The program is designed to bring greater racial and ethnic diversity to the United States.

Maura Harty, Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs for the State Department, is in charge of the program. "Traditionally, immigration occurs through a family tie or from a job opportunity. The DV Lottery expanded the opportunity, and gave folks from all over the world a chance to try their hand in what is a very level playing field…the lottery."

Through the lottery, the U.S. gives out 55,000 immigrant visas each year to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States, such as Ethiopia, Egypt and Morocco. If accepted, an immigrant can live and work permanently in the United States. All that is required to apply is a high school degree from the immigrant's country or two years of equivalent work experience.

Gabriela Kliewer is from Ecuador. She came to the U.S. in 2002 through the Diversity Visa Lottery.

"I applied because there was a tough time in Ecuador in 1999,” she said. “I really didn't want to come. I was 24 at the time and I was having a great time in Ecuador. I had a good job and I didn't want to come. But then my mom tried to convince me to do this because of the opportunities and the new things that I would experience moving here, so I did it."

John Keeley, from the Center for Immigration Studies, says it is exactly this approach that the United States should discourage.

"I think the program also really cheapens the notion of immigration to the U.S. This program doesn't have any merits, in terms of saying to an individual immigrant, ‘what are your skills sets, what is your education, what talents are you bringing to the United States?’ "

And Mr. Keeley says the United States needs to be particularly careful about who it is letting in.

"At a time where we are very concerned about the porous nature of our borders, and prosecuting a war on terror globally, the idea that we would say to our immigration bureaucrats here in Washington, you now get to process the claims of 10 million people from around the world, is patently stupid. In a post-9/11 world, we need to know who is coming to the United States and not drawing names out of a hat," said Mr. Keeley.

"I don't think it's totally random,” countered Ms. Kliewer. “All the people that I have met that have won the lottery, it's the same characteristics: single, professional, young. So I think the States is trying to have workers here, and good workers, like professional people that they know for sure they are not going to come here and live from the government."

Gabriela ended up marrying an American, and has a job working in human resources at the National Council of La Raza in Washington D.C.

Since the program does not include a system of tracking people once the visas are awarded, there is no way to tell how other winners are faring in the United States. Despite any security concerns, officials say the program will continue, because it is good publicity for the United States, and attracts people the country is happy to have.