AFRICANS STAND TO LOSE AS U.S MOVES TO CANCEL VISA LOTTERY

AS the United States (U.S.) reforms its immigration laws and eliminates the green card lottery, Africans could be the big losers owing to the fact that they are the main beneficiaries of the visa programme, agency report indicated Wednesday.

But around 100,000 people were Wednesday picked from several million hopefuls who applied to get the Green Card, in what could be the last batch of the yearly lottery slated to vanish under the proposed reforms.

The system that will replace it in 2017, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported Wednesday, is merit-based and will also give Africans a chance. On average, they are more educated than people from other continents. And English-speaking Africans would get a boost because of that language skill, the report claimed.

However, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People said the number of African immigrants would go down even with the merit-based system. “In essence, we’re concerned,” said Hilary Shelton, the NAACP Washington bureau director.

Dame Babou, who hosts a radio show that caters to Senegalese people in New York, said the scrapping of the lottery is disheartening for Africans.

“Every year, many people thought this was going to be their year,” Babou said. “Again, what is being eliminated is hope,” she said.

Half of the 50,000 residence permits handed out at random each year are earmarked for Africans. It is a hugely popular programme that has allowed hundreds of thousands of Africans to settle in America since the mid 1990s.

But the ambitious reform project under debate now in Washington, which would provide papers for million undocumented immigrants, contains a clause that would do away with the lottery.

In its place, would be a more selective immigration system based on skills, career and family ties.

Each year, 50,000 permanent residency permits are allocated to people from countries that see relatively few emigrants depart for the U.S.

The lottery system, which was created in 1995, aims to diversify the range of places from which people migrate to the United States.

Because of the wildly popular programme, millions of applicants have joined the train – a figure that has only grown in recent years.

But it has long been in the crosshairs of U.S. Republican lawmakers, who control the House of Representatives and said it adds no value to the economy.

“It’s clear that there are better ways to allocate visas than to randomly give them out through a lottery system,” said Bob Goodlatte, the Republican who leads the House Judiciary Committee. “Our immigration laws shouldn’t be based on the luck of the draw; rather, they should be designed strategically to benefit our country.”

Now, they have included a plan to scrap it in the comprehensive immigration reform plan currently being debated in Congress.

A final vote on the reforms is not expected before this summer, but if it passes, the diversity visas would vanish from next year.

When they applied, this year’s crop of hopefuls did not know that this might be their last chance.

Those who enter the draw for 2014, filed a free online application in October 2012.

And from 1600 GMT yesterday, the candidates will finally be able to check their status on the government website www.dvlottery.state.gov, using their personal confirmation number.

Some 100,000 names were selected in a first round, because not everyone will complete the process for a visa, and a maximum of 50,000 green cards will ultimately be given out.

In the 2013 lottery, 7.9 million people, with 4.6 million spouses and children, submitted applications.

More than 18,000 Africans – more than from any other continent – got Green Cards through the lottery in 2012. Half of the lottery is reserved for applicants from the continent, which could now lose out.

Countries that sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the past five years are excluded from the lottery. So, Mexicans, Chinese and Filipinos, for instance, are not eligible. This year, a range of countries, including Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, mainland-born China, Mexico, Pakistan, South Korea, and Britain (except Northern Ireland), will be affected.

The 2014 winners will be given interviews from October, where they will have to show proof of a high school diploma or at least two years of work experience, as required under the programme.

All applicants need is a high school diploma or two years of work experience.

Between 2010 and 2012, one in five Africans who came to the United States to stay did so through the lottery. That made it the third most common method, at 21 per cent of the total, after family reunification (43 per cent) and refugee status or asylum seekers (23 per cent).

By comparison and in the same period, only 10 per cent of Europeans who became permanent residents and three per cent of Asians did so through the lottery.

“It has proven to be a way of helping those who come from the continent of Africa, those who come from a number of other areas where it is very difficult to get a visa,” said Sheila Jackson Lee, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose members are all Democrats.

But in an effort to preserve the comprehensive reform being negotiated for months by the two parties, the Democrats and President Barack Obama agreed to ditch the lottery.

Representative Charles Schumer, who authored the programme in 1990, said it was impossible to keep it.

Schumer said the system that will replace it in 2017 is merit-based and will also give Africans a chance. On average, they are more educated than people from other continents. And English-speaking Africans would get a boost because of that language skill.

But Michael Fix of the Migration Policy Institute said: “It really probably won’t admit enough people to offset the effects of the loss of the diversity visa for some years after that. It’s a long time away. It won’t be immediately offset by any means.”

The diversity visas would vanish starting next year under the reform being negotiated.

Only four per cent of African immigrants – compared to 21 per cent of Asians and 22 per cent of Europeans – received a green card for employment reasons in 2012.

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