U.S. visas are a hot commodity

Kamariea Forcier

Though Christmas has passed and tax time is months away, another such scramble of letters at the post office is about to begin. It is almost application time for the 1998 Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery, when millions of people across the globe hope to be one of 55,000 people on their way to U.S. citizenship.
Copies of the application procedure and rules are available for purchase at Copies on Campus in Coffman Memorial Union. Or with a student ID, people can check out the eight-page document from International Student and Scholar Services located in Nicholson Hall.
Lottery visas will be offered this year only to immigrants from countries deemed underrepresented by the U.S. State Department. The diversity lottery is the U.S. government’s way of encouraging legal immigration from these minority countries. A visa allows immigrants to live and work in the United States as if they were U.S. citizens.
Countries from which more than 50,000 people have emigrated to the United States in the last five years are ineligible for the lottery.
These countries include Poland, China, India, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Great Britain, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico and Jamaica.
“The whole purpose is to even up the number of people coming to the U.S.,” said Glenn Hendricks, a professor with the International Student and Scholar Services.
More than 22.6 million people have applied for the desired green card in the last three years since the lottery’s inception. However, more than five million people have been disqualified for breaking entry rules according to the U.S. State Department, the agency that runs the lottery.
Each person is allowed one application which must be submitted between noon on Feb. 3, and noon on March 5. More than one application by any single person will disqualify candidates. However, each member of a family may apply for the card on behalf of the entire household.
Requirements demand that each applicant must be a native of one of the eligible countries, and must either have a high school education or equivalent. Otherwise, within the last five years, individuals must have two years of work experience in a job requiring a couple years’ experience or training.
Lottery winners will be notified by mail during the summer. However, this does not guarantee a visa, according to the State Department.
The government chooses roughly twice as many lottery winners as visa spots. This is because many people change their minds, or applicants are disqualified.
Also, more than 100,000 families receive notification, but only 55,000 individuals receive visas.
The State Department encourages winners of the lottery to fill out their visa applications quickly after eligibility notification. A fee is also required for the visa application, and must be submitted after a person has been chosen in the lottery process.
One University student from France said he might apply for the lottery, but only because he would like the freedom a green card could offer him.
“It depends for who and for what reason you need the green card,” said the student, who did not wish to be identified because he fears difficulty in future visa applications to the U.S.
“For my case, since I come from a country that is relatively fine, for me I see it as a way to work in another country,” he said.
The student, whose student visa runs out in June, said he heard he might be able to stay one more year in the country if he graduates from the University and can find a job.
“Right now, since the lottery is only a chance, I think I’d rather have the job” instead of the green card, he said. “The visa is just a paper.”
Officials from both the State Department and the International Student and Scholar Services warned potential applicants to be wary of scams that could cost people money.
“There’s absolutely no reason why people should be paying for someone else to apply for them,” said Hendricks.