Letter No. 30: Immigration reform now! (36101)

The 2013 green card lottery program is already here, giving foreigners around the world who wish to migrate legally to the United States the opportunity to take a chance.

Entries for the free lottery are only being accepted online at www.dvlottery.state.gov through noon on Saturday, Nov. 5.

Applicants must have either a high school education or its equivalent, defined as successful completion of a 12-year course of elementary and secondary education, or two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience.

For fiscal year 2013, 50,000 diversity visas (DVs) will be available. Nationals of Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, the United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories and Vietnam are excluded from entering the lottery.

The annual program makes visas available to those who meet simple, but strict, eligibility requirements. A computer-generated, random drawing chooses the selectees for DVs.

The visas are distributed among six geographic regions-within each region, no single country may receive more than 7 percent of the available DVs in any one year. Visas are allocated to nationals of countries with historically lower rates of U.S. immigration. Nationals of countries who have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States over the past five years are not eligible to apply for the program.

All instructions for application, including the size requirements of the photographs to be submitted with the application, can be found at travel.state.gov/pdf/DV_2013_instructions.pdf.

Undocumented immigrants living in the United States can enter the lottery but, should they win, may not be able to uplift the visa since they would face a five to 10-year ban should they leave and try to return to the United States after living here without legal working papers.

Please note also that the Department of State’s Office of Visa Services is warning against fraudulent emails and letters sent to DV program applicants. The scammers behind these fraudulent emails and letters pose as U.S. government representatives in an attempt to extract payment. Applicants are encouraged to review the rules and procedures for the DV program so that they know what to expect, when to expect it and from whom.

Applicants will not receive a notification letter or email informing them that they are a successful DV entrant. Applicants can only find out if they were selected to continue with DV processing by checking their status online at www.dvlottery.state.gov.

Finally, remember that fees for the DV application process should only be paid to a U.S. embassy or consulate cashier at the time of your scheduled appointment. The U.S. government will never ask you to send payment in advance by check, money order or wire transfer.

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.