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Diversity Visa Lottery - 2002-04-18

English Feature #7-34120 Broadcast October 2, 2000

For the past ten years, between 50 and 55 thousand immigrants have entered the United States each year thanks to a program called the Diversity Visa lottery. Today on New American Voices a consular officer from the U.S. Department of State, which runs the lottery, explains who is eligible for it, and how it works.

The Diversity Visa lottery was created by an act of Congress in 1990. It allows up to 55 thousand randomly selected applicants from various countries to enter the United States each year as permenent residents. Chris Osage, a visa specialist working with the lottery, says Congress's intention was to diversify the immigrant pool.

"The program was created because there are some countries who historically were not sending many immigrants to the United States. So the diversity visa program was designed for people who really had no other way of immigrating to the United States, -- you don't have a relative here, you're not a computer scientist. So this opens it up."

This year 50 thousand permanent residency visas will be distributed through random selection to people who send in their applications between October 2nd and noon on Wednesday, November 1st. The first and most basic questions is - who is eligible to apply?

"Everybody is eligible unless you're from one of those countries that has sent a lot of immigrants to the United States in the past five years. And there's a list of those. It's Canada, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom and Vietnam. So if you're from one of those countries, you're not eligible to apply for the diversity visa program."

The application process itself is simple.

"To apply, all you need to do is to take a piece of paper, and on it you write your full name, you write your date and place of birth, and then on the next line you write what country you're claiming to be a native of. Usually it's the place of birth, but it doesn't have to be. Then you need to list the names and date and place of birth of your spouse and all of your children under age twenty-one. Then you give us a mailing address, you send a photo, you sign the back of the photo, and then on the botton of the piece of paper you sign your own name."

The information on the piece of paper should be in English, but the signature can be in the native language. Chris Osage of the U.S. State Department's visa lottery office stresses that the paper and the photo are all that should be sent.

"First of all there are no fees, so people should not be sending any fees with it. You shouldn't be sending any documents with it. Don't send birth records or anything like that. It is simply that piece of paper with the required information written on it. Then you put that in an envelope, on the envelope in the upper left hand corner you write the name of the country that you are claiming to be a native of. Now that's important. Under that you write your full name, and then you give your street address. And you address it to the Kentucky Consular Center in Kentucky."

Individuals who send in more than one application will be disqualified, but several members of the same family can send in applications.

This year's lottery is labeled "Diversity Visa Lottery 2002", because the procedure, between sending in an application and actually receiving a visa, generally takes two years. Chris Osage explains the process.

"Anybody who wants to try for Diversity Visa 2002, they will make their application in October, in October 2000. In the spring of 2001 the Kentucky Conference Center will send out notices to the winners, and then those winners will start being interviewed by overseas U.S. embassies beginning next October 2001, and the program for that diversity visa year runs through the end of the following September. So your interview will be scheduled any time during that year, and your visa is issued, if you're qualified, after that interview."

Although anyone can apply for the visa lottery, people must meet certain qualifications to get a visa. They must have either a high school education or its equivalent, or two years of work experience within the past five years that requires at least two years of training. Because not all applicants do qualify, the Kentucky Consular Center generally selects a larger number of lottery winners than there are available visas. Last year, for example, eleven million people applied for the lottery, ninety thousand were selected, and fifty thousand will actually receive immigrant visas.

The people who come to the United States as winners of the Diversity Visa Lottery are only a small portion of the one million immigrants who enter this country each year. Next week on New American Voices - some basic facts on the current state of legal immigration to the United States.