The uncertain future of the green card lottery

Among the many issues under discussion in the debate over immigration reform is the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as the green card lottery. Some legislators who are working to overhaul the nation’s immigration system want to see the lottery abolished, but there are others who view it as an integral part of that system.

What is the green card lottery?
Every year since 1995, 50,000 immigrants have been randomly selected to receive citizenship through a green card, or permanent resident visa. It’s a free online application process, which makes it as easy as possible to apply.

Unfortunately, the registration period for the 2015 green card lottery recently came to a close. But that just means you can start preparing now to apply next year, assuming it remains in place in the event of comprehensive immigration reform.

In order to be eligible, you must have either the equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma or have spent two of the past five years working in a qualifying occupation. If you want to find out if you fit the criteria, go to the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net Online Database.

Ensuring diversity
By only allowing immigrants from countries that don’t have large populations within the U.S. to apply – there are 19 nations from which immigrants are not eligible, all of them with large communities already in the country – the lottery is an effective way of making sure there is a highly diverse cultural environment in the U.S.

As was pointed out in a recent article in Businessweek that cited several academic studies, greater diversity tends to lead to more innovation and higher profits at companies that hire people with a wider range of cultural backgrounds. That ability to drive the nation’s economic engine is yet another reason it’s crucial to ensure people from a multitude of countries can earn U.S. citizenship.