US visa lottery attracts 11 million applicants

Figures from the US State Department show that the country’s annual visa lottery received applications from more than 11 million applicants this year – even though only 100,000 visas are awarded through the system.

Introduced in 1990, the Diversity Visa programme – otherwise known as visa lottery – is held each year and is open to applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States – in other words, no visas go to nationals of countries who have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States over the period of the past five years. Citizens of Northern Ireland are eligible to apply through the programme, although those from the UK are not.

Applications for the 2016 lottery only opened on 1st October and closed on Monday, and the 11 million plus applications received by the Department of State in this period was 21 per cent higher than the number received last year.

One of the reasons for the spike in numbers this year could be down to the fact that it could be the last year the programme operates. Under a Senate immigration bill that passed last year, the lottery would be eliminated, and analysts say it is unlikely to survive if lawmakers pass a broad overhaul of the immigration system.

Opponents of the system argue that a large influx of, potentially, low-skilled immigrants does little to aid the US economy, and the 100,000 places awarded through this system would be better served going to more suitably qualified overseas nationals.

Supporters, however, claims that it gives those who often don’t have the chance to immigrate through family connections or work sponsorship the chance to make a new life for themselves – a key component, they argue, of what America is all about.

The computer generated random draw for the 2016 lottery will take place in Kentucky next May.

Article published 6th November 2014