The month of November 2017 has already been a rollercoaster ride for a number of immigration programs and processes. There are still questions around the future of DACA, continued suspense over possible changes to the Priority Date system for specific visa schemes, and overall a general uncertainty regarding the U.S. approach to immigration. However, no immigration issue has received more attention this month than the Diversity Visa Lottery.
What is a Diversity Visa Lottery?
Each year in October and early November millions of people from around the world apply to the Diversity Visa Lottery. It is expected that before this year’s November 22nd deadline, 14 million people will submit applications to the Diversity Visa Lottery. It’s a long shot to be selected, but as a true lottery the chances are even for everyone who properly submits an application. No sponsor or family member in the United States is needed.
The program was part of the Bush Administration’s Immigration Act of 1990 and welcomed its first participants in 1995 under President Clinton. If selected in the lottery the Diversity Visa allows the individual to enter the United States as a permanent resident. Thus, the program is alternatively called the Green Card Lottery, and for many people it is seen as the best opportunity to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
However, the Diversity Visa Lottery is only open to foreign nationals from specified countries. It’s meant to provide immigration opportunities for individuals that are underrepresented in the United States today. This includes a majority of people coming from Africa, being 44% of all recipients from the Diversity Visa Lottery over time, and smaller or Eastern European countries. In 2016, the most recent year of reporting on Diversity Visa Lottery recipients the majority of individuals came from Egypt, Nepal, Iran, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uzbekistan and Ethiopia.
Why is the Diversity Visa Lottery Being Questioned?
The current presidential administration has hinted at an end of the Diversity Visa Lottery since taking office in January, but recent events have brought the program under more scrutiny from the federal executive branch.
On Halloween, right here in New York City a terror suspect carried drove his vehicle through a crowd of people – killing eight people and injuring several others. This isn’t news to anyone in New York or the United States, but what many people don’t know is the violent actor in this case was an Uzbek national who received permanent residency in the United States through the Diversity Visa Lottery in 2010.
Within two days of the attack in Lower Manhattan, President Trump called for the end of the Diversity Visa Program and implementation of other immigration control processes. The request to end this program came via Tweet from the President, which doesn’t provide any immediate legal implications. But as past policy decisions from the Trump Administration exemplify, the President’s opinions over Twitter often become part of official policy.
The argument for ending the Diversity Visa Lottery is that it would provide an opportunity to increase merit-based visa programs, which would allow for more controlled and intentional immigration. Of course, on the opposing side are valid points that the Diversity Visa Lottery provides an opportunity for unskilled and underrepresented, but needed, workers to come to the United States. Without this program these individuals wouldn’t have any access to other residency schemes.
What to Expect in 2018?
The Diversity Visa Lottery for the year 2019 closes on the 22nd of this month. Nearly all the applicants for this round of recipients have already submitted the appropriate paperwork, but that doesn’t guarantee the federal law will still be in effect for the lucky individuals selected. It is possible that initiatives and policy reform from the federal government will discontinue the program and cancel the awarded Green Cards prior to 2019.
While the rhetoric from the executive government can create a lot of unease and uncertainty for recipients of the Diversity Visa Lottery in upcoming years, the President can’t act unilaterally on this point. The legislative branch, federal agencies, and lobbyists are certain to have a hotly contested conversation and debate on the continuation of this visa program and whether or not a replacement is provided.
Concerned About Your Immigration Status
As a top immigration attorney in Long Island and representing clients across New York and the United States, the Law Firm of Kyce Siddiqi has seen significant changes in approach and process for immigration in recent months. Concern over immigration status and continuation of specific immigration programs is valid. But turning that concern into planning and proactive steps is beneficial. Call 888-915-7333 to speak directly with a qualified immigration attorney today.