The 2011 DV Lottery closed at noon on November 30. I had been bugging P to submit an application all month, but by the time he got around to checking it out the application time period closed (he thought he had until midnight that night). I was hoping he would at least try, because if he were randomly to “win” then he could get a green card, and potentially help us sort out some of our immigration related logistical issues. Unfortunately, P has always been a bit laid back about immigration stuff. Where many Nepalis I know apply like clockwork every year (including P’s brother), I’m not sure if P ever has himself.
So what is the DV Lottery? It is the “Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery” also known as the “Green Card Lottery” administered by the US Department of State. According to Wikipedia, “Section 131 of the Immigration Act of 1990 amended INA [Immigration and Nationality Act] 203 to provide for a new class of immigrants known as ‘diversity immigrants’ (DV immigrants). The Act makes available 50,000 permanent resident visas [‘Green Cards’] annually to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.”
Essentially anyone can apply as long as you are not on the “ineligible country list” based on current immigration trends, this list includes: Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, South Korea, UK and Vietnam. All correctly filed and relevant applications are put into a “lottery drawing” and 50,000 visas are awarded each year.
Wikipedia continues, “The visas are distributed on a regional basis, with each region sending fewer immigrants to the US in the previous 5 years receiving more diversity visas. Currently, Africa and Europe receive about 80% of the visas in the lottery. In addition, no single country can receive more than 7% of the total number of visas (3,500).
In order to allow for those who do not pursue immigrant visas, more ‘winners’ are selected in the lottery than there are visas available. Hence being selected from the lottery does not guarantee an immigrant visa to the U.S. To receive a diversity visa and immigrate to the United States, ‘winners’ must meet all eligibility requirements under U.S. law. Requirements include at least a high school diploma, or its equivalent, or two years of work experience in an occupation requiring at least two years training.”
There are quite a few Nepalis in the US now through the DV Lottery (including the Nepali woman who threaded my eyebrows over the weekend… she arrived three months ago with her DV, and a master’s degree in sociology). In the 2010 drawing (last year) 2,132 DV’s were awarded. This is about the average given out each year for Nepal… in 2009 1,891 were awarded and in 2008 there were 2,562. However millions of people (worldwide) apply. Putting in your application doesn’t necessarily guarantee you.
For example, P’s dad has submitted an application every year for the past 5-8 years. When he went for his visa interview in 2008 in preparation for the family visit to the US that summer, the consular officer asked if he was planning to immigrate to the US if given a tourist visa since, “I see you have applied for the DV religiously over the years.” When applying for a tourist or student visa the key is to prove that you will not overstay your visa and illegally immigrate (or in the case of students, that you will continue working in the US after you graduate even though many do), and thus the burden of proof is on you to show that you have reason (land, family, job, etc) to return. P’s dad planned to return but had some explaining to do to the official before finally receiving his required tourist visa.
Yet to show you the randomness of the lottery… a friend of ours from New York landed in the US with a DV a few years ago. As a student in Nepal he had heard of the DV but honestly thought “no one ever actually wins.” One day at university (back in Nepal) many of his classmates were filling out the DV application and his friend started pestering him… “come on, you have to do it, you never know!” Our friend eventually said fine, filled out the information, and gave it to his friend to send in. When the DV selections were made, our friend didn’t even check the list. He never even thought to look. Ironically (of course), he was on the list, and the friend who urged him to apply (and wasn’t selected) had to let him know. This was a guy who probably never would have come to the US on his own, and here he was, 21 years old, given a visa and sent to the US to start a new life alone. It was tough. He missed his family. He had no one to lean on for support. He spent long nights working at Indian restaurants and driving taxi cabs and days working at the university towards a degree. It took him many years to finish undergrad.
I kind of think the DV is a bit interesting and a bit weird (not in a good way or bad way, just in a… hmmm kind of way). When I hear people complain (especially in this recession) about how “ridiculous” it is to award 65,000 H1B work visas to qualified international students and workers each year when we have plenty of Americans looking for work (and I have students who have spent many years of their life studying so they can get a good job in the States, and are now left without a lot of options and having to return home), then we have this lottery which is a lot more random and permanent, and most people know very little about it, and… I don’t know… sometimes I just don’t get it.
I know the DV helps people… I have a Bulgarian friend from college who has a great job in New York City, and was selected for a DV, and now has permanent residence. He and his American fiancé have less immigration hurdles, and his work and personal life are more settled and stable because his immigration status has been finalized. But then there are others… like P’s dad’s friend, who won the DV lottery and moved to the US with his wife and younger son. Both have university degrees from Nepal (his wife has a master’s in English) but all they can do is work at a Subway sandwich shop. They came to the US to give a better life to their son and the DV Lottery gave them a legal channel in which to do this, but they are frustrated that as working adults their options in the US are limited.
So anyway, it is an interesting program that I don’t think many people know about. I am kind of on the fence about it. It definitely has good points and not so good points. However, it would have been nice to at least have P put his application in for once…