Diversity Immigrant Visa program “Green Card Lottery”

You can't win if you don't play!

You can’t win if you don’t play!

The proposed immigration reform bill, S 744 could has disrupted the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, the lottery for lawful permanent residence better known at the “Green Card Lottery.” Under the current program, United States Permanent Resident Cards are provided by the U.S. State Department according to the congressionally mandated lottery system.

How the Lottery Works

When a potential immigrant is selected in the lottery, they must be eligible and be interviewed. Eligibility requirements include a high school diploma, equivalent, or two years of work equivalence in an occupation requiring at least two years of training. Applicants are asked to provide additional information about their education levels, current country of residence, lack of criminal history, and general admissibility issues under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Many praise the current lottery system and argue it should be preserved to ensure the continued benefits of a diverse immigrant pool.

What few people know is the diversity immigrants come from all over the world, with no more than 7% of issued visas going to immigrants from any single country. The net effect is representation in the diversity immigrant pool from some of the countries less considered when people discuss immigration. Currently a large number of lottery winners are coming from Africa and Europe.

The Argument for Diversity

Some claim there are benefits to diversity in immigration. Cited in a recent article[i] a new paper by Alberto Alesina[ii] and colleagues from Harvard University suggests benefits of the visa lottery system that allows for a more diverse immigrant pool. “Building on previous studies suggesting companies with more diverse management gain higher market share and profits, the authors similarly find that countries with more diverse foreign-born populations have more patents granted each year and higher overall incomes.”

An example of a lottery winners are Yuri and Lyudmila, a Russian couple who lived in a tiny apartment outside Kiev. The college educated couple worked hard but were not able to find many opportunities until good news came one day when they won U.S. green cards in the lottery and would be headed to Seattle! “Yuri and Lyudmila weren’t tech wizards; neither had ever owned a computer, and they didn’t speak much English. But the lottery required only that they have high-school diplomas and wouldn’t need financial assistance from the U.S. government.[iii]

Now U.S. homeowners, Yuri is a bus driver and works at Trader Joes while Lyudmila works as a bookkeeper.

Some critics of the diversity visa lottery system complain that at random, highly skilled (H-1B and L-1 visas) workers may arrive and remain on temporary visas alongside others immigrants with little or no skills other than general labor. What critics might not consider is the scarce opportunities to gain specialized skills in less developed nations where obstacles to someone’s future are removed in the U.S. At the end of the day, someone who wins any lottery may feel empowered to do great things.

Immigrants to the U.S. contact the Law Offices of KiKi M. Mosley for assistance with their visa petitions and the lottery process. Attorney KiKi M. Mosley is licensed to practice law by the State of Illinois and Louisiana. She is skilled and experienced in complex immigration law issues. For more information about the law firm, please tap/click here to visit the rest of the website, and do not forget to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” on Twitter or Google Plus.


[i] Bloomberg Businessweek: The U.S. Can’t Afford to Scrap the Visa Lottery. By Charles Kenny, Nov. 4, 2013.

[ii] Harvard University website: Alberto Alesina, Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economy.

[iii] Bloomberg Businessweek: The U.S. Needs Immigrant Bus Drivers and Bookkeepers, Too. By Carol Matlack, Nov. 4, 2013.

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