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Every year, it offers thousands of people from all over the world the opportunity to reside permanently in the United States. Your requirements are few. And it costs nothing.
But now President Donald Trump wants him to end.
Its formal name is the Immigrant Diversity Visa Program , but it is popularly known simply as “the visa lottery.”
And that’s just what it is about.
Annually, the US State Department conducts a randomized computerized draw to select 50,000 people who will have the opportunity to receive a permanent residence permit in the country, better known as the green card .
Winning this lottery does not imply having the residence permit insured but having the right to apply for the diversity visa.
Those who are chosen then begin a process to demonstrate that they are eligible to emigrate to the United States, which includes going through a personal interview similar to the one that must be faced by the rest of the people who wish to live in that country.
In case of being eligible and receiving the green card , this benefit also extends to the spouse and to unmarried children under 21 years of age.
Who can benefit?
The visa lottery is open to citizens of all countries in the world, with the exception of those from those states that have added more than 50,000 emigrants to the United States in the last five years.
Currently, that restriction leaves out citizens of 18 nations, 7 of them Latin American.
These are: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam and the United Kingdom (except Ireland North) and its dependent territories.
Beyond this limitation, applicants for diversity visas must meet one of the following two requirements:
- Have successfully completed secondary school or its equivalent (having successfully completed twelve years of primary and secondary education).
- Have completed two years of work experience within the last five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to work.
According to the most recent figures of the Department of State, corresponding to 2015, the most favored Latin American countries were: Venezuela, with 1,556 visas; Cuba, with 1,480 visas; and Honduras, with 165 visas.
However, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, from all the applicants in the world who have been most likely to enter the United States thanks to this system are those from sub-Saharan Africa.
But, and why does Trump want to eliminate this lottery?
Merits, not chance
On Wednesday, the US president posted on his Twitter account a message stating that Sayfullo Saipov, a citizen from Uzbekistan who is considered to have been accused of causing the death of at least eight people in a run over in Manhattan, had entered to the USA thanks to one of these visas.
“The terrorist came to our country through what is called the Diversity Visa Program, a beauty of Chuck Schumer, I want it to be based on merit,” Trump tweeted.
The president made reference to the New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who played a key role in the development of the law that created the visa lottery in 1990 and that began to be applied in 1995.
However, that norm was approved with support from both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party and was converted into law by Republican President George HW Bush.
The new legislation replaced a 1965 rule that worked with a quota system that, according to its critics, favored overly white emigrants from Europe.
In 2013, Schumer led a bipartisan effort to pass a new immigration law that totally eliminated the visa lottery and transferred that quota from permanent residences to highly qualified immigrants.
That initiative, however, won the support of the Senate but was not approved by the House of Representatives.
The idea of eliminating the visa lottery had already been outlined by Trump beforehand.
The president gave his support to the proposed Law to Reform Immigration to the United States for a Strong Employment (Raise, for its acronym in English) that eliminated the diversity visas and, at the same time, halved the number of legal immigrants in the country and put limits on the admission of refugees.
That norm was impelled in February by two republican senators, but until now it has not counted on sufficient supports in the Camera.
Last August, Trump reiterated his support for the adoption of a system similar to the Canadian, in which potential immigrants would be valued based on issues such as their skills, their education, their knowledge of the language, the quality of job offers that receive or their entrepreneurial initiative.
In this new system, visas granted for family reunification would decrease and diversity visas would disappear .
For now, however, the annual registration period for the visa lottery is open until noon on November 22.
From the legal point of view, Trump does not have the legal authority to change the law that created the diversity visas, since that depends on the Congress. Thus, until now, it is still a valid procedure. Although nobody knows now for how much longer.