Each year, 50,000 immigrants are chosen to come to the United States through a program called the “diversity visa lottery," also known as the “green card lottery.”
The two main requirements for applicants are they must have a high school diploma and they must be from a country that is underrepresented in the United States. Each year, the list of applicable countries changes. Lottery “winners” are selected through a random computer drawing through the State Department.
“The purpose of a lottery was to even out the people that are underrepresented in that year at that time,” explained Cleveland immigration attorney Margaret Wong. “If you do it right, it really is not a bad place.”
Hours after the terror attack in New York City, President Donald Trump tweeted:
The terrorist came into our country through what is called the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program," a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2017
Wednesday afternoon, President Trump told reporters that he would ask Congress to immediately initiate work to get rid of the program.
“Diversity lottery. Sounds nice,” President Trump said. “It’s not nice. It’s not good. It hasn’t been good.”
Wong said hundreds of thousands of people apply for the lottery each year. The goal, when it was established in the early 90s, was to allow immigrants from underrepresented countries into the U.S. and create a path for citizenship. Diversity visa recipients are given a green card and after five years they can apply for U.S. citizenship, Wong said.
“The benefit is that you don’t need a job offer. It’s not employment-based, investment-based, refugee-based. You don’t need family base,” Wong said. “It’s a lottery so you’re lucky enough to get it.”
President Trump said he wants a merit-based program for visas, which would prioritize immigrants with job skills, higher education, and English-speaking abilities.