US State Department reports fewer applicants for green card lottery

According to the US State Department, only eight million people applied to win a green card in this year's US Diversity Visa lottery, compared to the record 15 million applicants last year.

A US State Department spokeswoman attributed the drop in applications this year to the fact that Bangladeshi citizens weren't eligible to participate. The South Asian nation in years past had submitted the most applications but, as of this year, is no longer classified as a low-immigration country to the US.

The diversity-visa lottery is an immigration program that offers a quick path to permanent U.S. residence for up to 50,000 people each year who are selected randomly by the US government. Applicants are from countries that send few immigrants to the US. Earlier this year, a computer error forced the government to redo the previous lottery, after 22,000 applicants were incorrectly notified that they had won a green card.

In Africa, the source of most entries now, the month-long entry period generates a torrent of applicants. This year, the three countries that submitted the most entries were: Nigeria, with 1.36 million; Ghana, with 909,000; and Ukraine, with 853,000.

Last year, Bangladesh accounted for 7.6 million entries.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that they believe the number of applicants could decrease even more in coming years because of a recently passed measure in Senate that charges a fee for entering the electronic draw, starting with next year's drawing.

In October, the US Senate approved a bill to extend federal benefits to disabled refugees living within the US. Based on an earlier deal worked out by Senators, the $36 million in aid will be offset with revenue generated by a new $30 fee for individuals applying to enter the country through the diversity-visa lottery program.

This year's US diversity-visa green card lottery ended on 5 November 2011. The results will be announced in May 2012.

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