Visa lottery is misunderstood

Many Poles were happy to hear that they can try their luck in the Diversity Visa Program again. However, the lottery is not as easy a route to a green card as it would seem.

The increasing number of candidates makes the chances of winning a green card through the lottery smaller and smaller each year. What is more, having one’s name drawn in the lottery does not guarantee receiving a green card.

Let’s take last year’s situation as an example. An error in the drawing system led the State Department  to cancel the results and rerun the lottery. Moreover, many misunderstandings have accumulated around the lottery itself.

The goal of the Diversity Visa Program, which has been conducting the lottery since 1991, is to insure ethnic diversity in immigration to the U.S. Through the program, green cards are distributed among the citizens of countries that are underrepresented in American society. That’s why the residents of such countries as Mexico, India, Great Britain or China do not qualify to participate in the new lottery. For the last couple of years, the list of non-participating countries has also included Poland.

The Department of State has done a lot to make sure that the Diversity Visa Program indeed allows for selection of the candidates from the largest number of countries. It has introduced regional limits and limitations for particular countries. As a result, only a couple thousand of lucky ones from each country have an opportunity to win a green card through a lottery.

Bearing in mind that each year the Department of State receives some 15 million submissions, the chances of winning in the Diversity Visa Program are not high. What is more, among the European nations, Polish citizens will compete in the lottery with Ukrainians and Albanians.

The program is not a form of immigration amnesty. Lawyers are unanimous in pointing out that most of the people who are living in the United States illegally won’t be able to legalize their status this way. The program may, however, be helpful in bringing family members to the U.S. or speeding up the process of getting a green card for people who are now legally living in the U.S.

Reinstating Poland on the list of countries participating in Diversity Visa Program only confirms what we have been observing for the last couple of years–legal immigration to the U.S. is shrinking. According to the rules, the program excludes from the lottery countries whose citizens have been granted more than 50,000 visas in the past five years that allow for permanent residence through work or family. Based on the rule it may be concluded that, the number of immigrants from Poland must have fallen below this level.

Many Polish businesses will greet the news of including Poland in the Diversity Visa program with mixed feelings. Hope remains that Poles will use the entire number of visas allotted to them in the lottery and will immigrate to the U.S. next October in order to realize their American dream.

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