State Department Using ‘Diversity Visas’ to Encourage Immigration to U.S. from Terror-Ridden Yemen

Matt Cover, Cybercast News Service, January 5, 2010

The State Department has awarded 1,011 special “diversity visas” allowing Yemeni nationals to immigrate to the United States since 2000, the year 17 U.S. sailors were killed when the USS Cole was attacked by terrorists in the Yemeni port of Aden.

The “diversity visas” are designed to encourage immigration from countries that do not otherwise send significant numbers of immigrants to the United States.

The State Department roster of all countries whose nationals have received “diversity visas” to immigrate to the United States in 2010, for example, shows that 2 of these immigrants will be from Luxembourg, 3 from the Solomon Islands, 4 from French Guiana, 5 from Reunion, 6 from Cape Verde, 7 from Malta, 8 from Guinea-Bissau, 9 from Comoros, 10 from Suriname–and 72 from Yemen. Nationals of the four states listed by the State Department as state sponsors of terrorism–Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria–also received “diversity visas” from the State Department to immigrate to the United States in 2010. These include 98 from Syria, 298 from Cuba, 1,084 from Sudan, and 2,773 from Iran.

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The State Department’s Diversity Visa Program was created by a provision in an immigration bill signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. The first diversity visas were granted under the program in 1995. The purpose of the program is to expand immigration to the United States from countries that do not typically sending large numbers of immigrants here. Under the program, to be eligible for a diversity visa a prospective immigrant must be a citizen of a country that has sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the United States during the preceding five-year period. This critieria effectively leaves nationals from the vast majority of nations eligible to receive diversity visas.

Currently, the only countries excluded from the program are: Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, South Korea, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

Approximately 50,000 diversity visas are distributed each year by lottery to applicants who sign up with the State Department during an annual registration period. The applicants must have a high school education or at least two years of work experience in certain jobs. Applicants can fill out the lottery registration forms themselves or have a lawyer or private organization do it for them.

Winning applicants are selected at random by computer and sent a notification letter. They are given an interview date at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their country, and, if they pass the interview, are allowed to enter the United States as legal permanent residents.

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Year        Diversity Visas

2000               63

2001             201

2002             223

2003               44

2004             106

2005               40

2006               47

2007               43

2008               70

2009             102

2010               72

Total:         1,011 

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