By Prisca Sam-Duru & Vera Samuel Anyagafu
The United States of America Diversity Visa (DV) Program, also known as Green Card Lottery, and congressionally mandated by the Department of State in 1995, has become an annual ritual which has given many Nigerians free passage to the US.
Information from the Consulate in Lagos shows that the DV lottery makes visas available to persons meeting simple, but strict eligibility requirements. The process involves choosing selectees for DVs through a computer-generated random drawing after which visas are distributed among the world’s six geographic regions and, within each region, no single country receives more than seven percent of the available DVs in a particular year. A total of 55,000 permanent resident visas are made available each year. Although about 6,000 Nigerians emerge lucky winners of the lottery each year, not up to a quarter of this number survive the screening exercise.
While this program is designed to offer opportunity of migrating to the US, to nationals of countries who are under-represented in America, it has received so much criticism. People have indeed been caught in the web of so much misconception about the program. While some who dismiss stories of Nigerians who migrated through the lottery program say it is unbelievable and therefore a fraud, others say even if it is real, there is a string attached to the offer.
The argument by people in this category has been that how can US of all nations whose visa is very difficult to come by, make obtaining visa to their country through lottery, so easy, simple and cheap.
Many others, especially within the elite class, have accused America of using the lottery to rip Nigeria off her labour force while some people accuse America of not being entirely sincere with the process of selection, especially when it comes to interviewing lottery winners, maintaining that the consular officers only look for one flimsy excuse or the other to disqualify interviewees. The last accusation seemed a fact and in a bid to ascertain how true, US Immigrant Chief Kris Arvind was confronted on the matter. Arvind dismissed the allegation. He explained that rather than seek to disqualify any lottery winner, the Department of State is interested in encouraging more legal migration through the lottery program.
Meanwhile, many Nigerians see the lottery as a miraculous way of escape from their troubles at home, especially when the minimum requirement is just School Certificate. As a result, many Nigerians have turned into customers of the annual gambling game as they try their luck each year hoping that they will emerge winners.
Even with reports of terrorists attacks on the US, many skeptics such as Kingsley Obiora who has played the lottery thrice without winning still wonder why the country has maintained this form of migration procedure which creates more insinuations that the US is up to something that is not completely spelt out.
The truth, however, remains that many Nigerians are living in America today and thanks to the DV Lottery even as many still pray they emerge winners as results are already out on the internet beginning from 1 May, 2012.
Considering the enthusiasm with which players await results of the lottery, one cannot but ponder if it is indeed worth the stress, as many who have migrated through the lottery are worse off in America due to lack of accommodation and job.
This is especially so as the program only provides visa and nothing more. During a recent press conference held at the Public Affairs Section of the US Consulate in Lagos, the duo of Kris Arvind and Christina Bernal said the program does not cater for housing, job, etc but only the right to be citizen of the United States of America. Arvind said any serious minded individual should be able to plan for a bright future for himself under the program.
Another problem is that the visa, once issued, is rendered invalid if, after six months, the holder fails to relocate to the US. Many winners often end up selling their belongings to get cash to relocate.
Even those considered to be elites scamper for the lottery. It is that bad that some have to accept menial jobs such as baby sitting, washing dishes, etc, even with high sounding Nigerian certificates. Little wonder there are stunning number of cases of Nigerians, who, out of desperation, get involved in sham marriages and illegal businesses for survival and this makes them the US’s liability in one way or the other.
Nigerians still dreaming of traveling via the DV Lottery ought to look before leaping. The lottery program, as pointed out by Arvind, is indeed a chance to plan a bright future but, at the same time, people should know that it takes ingenuity, creativity, hardwork, being smart as well as so many other qualities, to be able to survive once the rubicon is crossed. The US Consulate maintains that even after visa has been issued, the lottery winner has the right not to travel; this is another opportunity to have a rethink before embarking on the journey to the unknown.