The United States has often been compared to a “melting pot” or a “salad bowl” in its richness of ethnic, religious and cultural diversity.
Since colonial times, immigration has played a major role in American diversity, and U.S. immigration policy has increasingly favored a more even distribution in the national sources of immigration. One legislative manifestation of that policy objective can be seen in the Immigration Act of 1990, which mandated the nation’s Diversity Visa Program.
The Diversity Visa Program is drawn from Section 131 of the Immigration Act of 1990 as an amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under the program, 55,000 Diversity Visas are set aside each year for persons from countries with low immigration rates to the United States.
Diversity Visas are distributed among six geographic regions. The greatest number of visas are reserved for nationals of countries with lower rates of immigration, but no single country may account for more than 7 percent of the available visas in a given year. In 1999, Congress reserved 5,000 of these visas to be made available for use under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act.
Each year, nationals from a predetermined list of countries that have been the source of at least 50,000 immigrants to the United States during the previous five years are excluded from entering the lottery for Diversity Visas.
The 2016 Diversity Visa Program opened its application process on October 1, 2014 and will close it on November 3, 2014.
Natives of numerous countries are not eligible, their nations having exceeded the 50,000 immigrant threshold: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, the United Kingdom and its dependent territories, India, Vietnam, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines and South Korea.
After the annual application period has ended, a computer-generated random draw determines which persons have been selected for Diversity Visas. Beginning May 5, 2015, applicants can check online to find out if their entry was selected. The Department of State notifies successful applicants and provides instructions on how to apply for visas for themselves and eligible family members.
All Diversity Visa applicants must possess at least a high school diploma earned in their native country or the United States, or they must have worked at least two years in a job that required two years or more of training, experience or education. A high school Graduate Equivalency Diploma, or GED, does not meet the education requirement standard. Applicants also must not have been deemed “inadmissible” due to criminal activity or if they are “likely to become a public charge.”
An applicant who has been selected in the lottery process is not guaranteed a green card; the State Department always selects more Diversity Visa winners than the total number allotted for that year.
Winners of the lottery are provided a number showing their ranking in line based on their region of origin.
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