Congressional Black Caucus Wants to Keep Diversity Visa Program

1221951_to_sign_a_contract_2.jpgEarlier this month, the comprehensive immigration reform bill was introduced into the U.S. Senate. The bill includes many significant changes to immigration law, including the introduction of multiple new visas, a heightened border security program, and changing the makeup of certain family-based immigration categories. The Senate has already began debating the provisions of the bill, a process that is estimated to last several months as various groups vie to protect and promote the interests of their constituents.

One major group involved in the debate is the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Unlike many other groups that are debating the mechanisms for employment-based immigration, the CBC is focusing on an often overlooked immigration opportunity - the diversity visa lottery program (DV program).

The new bill would end the DV program and replace it with a merit-based program wherein applicants could accumulate "points" based on upon their education and work experience in order to qualify for permanent residency. As explained below, the CBC feels that ending the DV program would be a great disservice to many groups of potential immigrants who pose multiple benefits to the U.S. but who do not otherwise qualify for permanent residency.

The DV Program

Congress created the DV program to encourage and facilitate increased immigration from countries that were not largely represented in the pool of U.S. immigrants. The majority of immigration opportunities are available to foreign nationals who have close family relationships with U.S. citizens or permanent residents, or those who have been recruited as workers by U.S. employers. It is very difficult for foreign nationals without such connections to qualify for U.S. permanent residence.

The DV program provides an avenue for these foreign nationals to come to the U.S. legally without the need for a family member for employer to sponsor them. However, the DV program is only available to nationals of certain countries. Specifically, if in the previous five years less than 50,000 nationals emigrated to the U.S. from a certain country, nationals from that country are eligible for the DV program.

Additional Eligibility Requirements

Nationals from eligible countries must also possess a high school education (or the equivalent) or two years of work experience. The two years of work experience must have been in an occupation that requires at least two years of experience or training itself.

DV program applications are submitted electronically and winners are randomly selected by a computer. Once selected, the U.S. State Department informs the winners who must then file additional paperwork in order to enter the United States. The spouses and minor children of winners are eligible to accompany the winner.

Why the CBC Wants the DV Program to Stay

Historically, foreign nationals from African countries have received the most diversity visas. Statistics compiled by the American Immigration Council indicate that nationals from the African continent receive 48% of the diversity visas, with Ethiopia receiving 3,987 visas, Nigeria receiving 2,937 visas, and Kenya receiving 2,279 visas in 2010.

Members of the CBC state that the DV program is vitally important to the U.S.'s continued efforts to encourage and facilitate immigration from African countries. They also point out that the immigration reform bill offers programs that facilitate immigration for other groups, such as Canadians and Afghans, and that Africans should be allotted the same opportunities.

Have a question about the DV Program or another immigration issue? Attorneys at the Gee Law Firm are available to speak to you regarding your immigration options and to advise you on the best course of action to suit your needs. Contact our office today at 650-293-0270 and speak to a member of legal team about your case.

Additional Blog Posts

Congress Reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 20, 2013
Congressman Mike Honda Reintroduces the Reuniting Families Act, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 20, 2013

Immigration Reform / by Michelle Gee