Betting on immigration reform

A recent Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll “found that only 25 percent of Americans support allowing immigrants to obtain U.S. green cards or permanent resident status through a lottery system, while 60 percent oppose it…
[And] a smaller percentage, just over half, said they would support a proposal to end the program.”

The results from these two questions seem to indicate that a sizable percentage of Americans are opposed to more lax immigration laws. However that same Reuters/Ipsos poll also found “Seventy percent of all adults support allowing foreign spouses of U.S. citizens to obtain green cards, and 61 percent support allowing immigrants to obtain permanent resident status through their work for U.S. businesses.”

If anything the questions about the Green Card Lottery reveal a lack of understanding of the Green Card Lottery also called the “diversity visa” program. The US State Department says the program “provides for a class of immigrants known as ‘diversity immigrants,’ from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.”

Reuters adds, “The recipients of the visas are chosen randomly by lottery, though they have to go through standard security checks before they are granted permission to enter the United States.”

However that is a vast oversimplification of the process. The “standard security checks” include an Entrant Status Check and completion of an immigrant visa interview at a US Embassy. Applicants must also “complete [a] medical examination, along with any required vaccinations, before [their] scheduled visa interview date.” The medical exam envelope, if brought by the applicant and not mailed by the physician, must be sealed when brought for the visa interview. The Department of State adds, “Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program requires the principal DV applicant to have a high school education, or its equivalent, or two years of qualifying work experience,” adding that anyone who does not have the proper qualifications “will not be issued a visa, and… will not be refunded [any fees paid].”

Any mis-step by a would-be immigrant – or paperwork error by an American bureaucrat – “can result in delay or denial of [their] visa application,” and of course, no fees will be refunded.

The DoS further tells applicants, “You should not make permanent financial commitments, such as selling your house, car or property, resigning from your job or making non-refundable flight or other travel arrangements until you have received your immigrant visa.” Adding, “A diversity visa is usually valid for up to six months from the date of issuance.” Which means applicants for the Green Card Lottery are encouraged by the United States government to try making all relevant permanent financial commitments in less than 6 months. And once the immigrant has landed in the United States with passport and visa, Sealed Immigrant Packet, Vaccination Records & X-Rays in hand, they may learn “A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States.” Because “[t]he Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to grant or deny admission.”

Maybe, just maybe, if more Americans knew what all was involved in the immigration process, specifically the Green Card Lottery, they may begin to advocate for an immigration system that doesn’t rely on quotas and luck.