11:00 A.M. EDT
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Good morning and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. My name is Belinda Jackson-Farrier. This morning, we’ll be learning about the 2014 Diversity Visa Program from the Bureau of Consular Affairs Director of Public and Diplomatic Liaison for the Visa Office, Ms. Karin King. Thank you.
MS. KING: Hello and welcome. I am pleased to announce the opening of the DV-14 Electronic Visa Program. We are going to start accepting entries for the program at noon Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday, October 2nd – that’s tomorrow – and the program will close for entries at noon Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday, November 3rd, 2012.
The congressionally mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa Program makes available up to 55,000 diversity visas each year, drawn from a random selection among all entries to persons who meet strict eligibility requirements from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Applicants can access the electronic DV entry form, which is known as eDV, at the official eDV website, www.dvlottery.state.gov. They can do this during the registration process, and afterwards they can access the site for other information. They can also get instructions at the Department of State’s public webpage at travel.state.gov.
DV entries are only accepted through the eDV site, which has complete instructions. There is no fee to enter DV. This is a really important point. People should not be asked to pay any fee in order to enter the program. All entrants must print and retain their online confirmation page after completing their DV entries so that they will be able to check their entry status as explained below. That’s another important point. People need to hang on to those numbers.
Beginning on May 1st, 2013, DV-2014 entrants will be able to use their unique confirmation number provided at registration to check online through the Entrant Status Check, again, at dvlottery.state.gov, to see if their entry was selected. Successful entrants will receive through the Entrant Status Check further instructions on how to apply for diversity immigrant visas for themselves and for their eligible family members. Confirmation of visa interview appointments will also be made through Entrant Status Check. Applicants should print and keep their confirmation page until at least June 30th, 2014, as applicants can only perform an entry status check with the confirmation number provided at registration.
Again, it’s very important for entrants to keep a personal record of their unique confirmation number until at least June 30th, 2014. This is the only way they are going to be able to check to see if their entry has been selected and to obtain visa application and appointment information if they have been selected. The unique confirmation number protects DV entrants against fraud, malfeasance, and problems with mail. Unscrupulous visa facilitators have been known to assist entries (sic) with their entries and then retain the confirmation page and demand extra money in exchange for the information. We have tried to set up a system where the applicant can do everything on his or her own and doesn’t need to go through a facilitator or pay anyone money at all in order to apply.
Successful entrants are not notified by email on the status of their eDV entry online. Any email claiming to notify entrants that they have been selected for the program is not legitimate. Applicants can only access information through the Entrant Status Check, so they do need to be proactive about going to the site and checking whether they have been selected.
Those selected in the DV program may apply for immigrant visas. 55,000 IVs are set aside for DV-2014. However, since DV-1999, Congress has set aside 5,000 of this annual allocation to be made available for use under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act, known as NACARA. Selectee notification information will be available on Entrant Status Check beginning May 1st, 2013 and will provide successful entrants further instructions, including information on immigrant visa application fees.
DV applicants must pay all application fees and costs, including those for medical examinations for themselves and qualifying immediate relatives. Immigrants under the DV program must also prove that they will be able to support themselves in the United States and will not become public charges. Immigration under the DV program does not entitle the immigrant or family members to any financial or settlement assistance from the U.S. Government.
For DV-2014, natives of Guatemala are now eligible to enter the program. This is a change from last year. Countries whose natives are not eligible for DV this year for 2014 are Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, mainland-born China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, and the United Kingdom, except for Northern Ireland and all the UK-dependent territories, and Vietnam is also not eligible. A native ordinarily means someone born within a particular country regardless of the individual’s current country of residence or nationality. Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are also eligible.
The section of the law establishing the DV program limits the list of eligible countries to those countries from which fewer than 50,000 persons in various visa categories immigrated to the United States during the previous five years. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS, modifies the list of eligible countries for each year’s DV program on the sole basis of the five-year calculation.
Entrants must provide an email address as part of their entry. Entrants should provide a personal email address they can access easily, rather than using someone else’s address or a standard company address. The Department of State will only send an email to applicants alerting such applicants to check their status or to say the details of their immigrant visa appointment are available on Entrant Status Check. Email communications will not provide selectee notification, will not direct recipients to pay fees, and will not provide application instructions, and will not detail visa interview dates and times. The information is only available through Entrant Status Check.
So with that, I will be happy to take your questions.
MODERATOR: When you ask a question, please wait for the mike and please state the name of your organization and then your name. Thank you.
We’ll take one in the back and then we’ll come to you.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mana Rabiee with the Voice of America. Maybe a couple of questions. If you could tell me how you sort of decide the breakdown of those 50,000 lottery winners in terms of numbers? I suppose several thousand from one country are decided in advance and so on. And if the so-called Arab Spring events there have sort of affected in the last year or so how you sort of apply those numbers to that region? And any comments you might have also about numbers for specifically Iran.
But if you don’t want to reach all – do all those now, I’ll do it after the briefing as well. Thank you.
MS. KING: Okay. Well, let me start with the first question. Again, the 50,000 applicants – the entrants, the winners – are chosen randomly through a very random process. Now, we have regions of the world – and I’m just looking at my expert – but we can have no more than 7 percent of the total from any region.
MS. THURMOND: There’s six geographic.
MODERATOR: Here, why don’t you come up to the mike.
MS. KING: Yeah.
MS. THURMOND: There are six geographic regions, and there’s a congressionally mandated formula by which we divide the 50,000 available into each of those six geographic regions. Within each region, the number of visas allotted to any one country are completely random. So there is --
QUESTION: Within the region?
MS. THURMOND: Within each region, it’s completely random how many are selected for each country.
QUESTION: By region, you mean Asia or the Middle East or Africa?
MS. THURMOND: Exactly.
MODERATOR: And then just get your name.
MS. THURMOND: Sorry. My name is Rebecca Thurmond. I work in the Visa Office.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. KING: Yes.
MODERATOR: All right. We’ll take a question here.
QUESTION: Thank you. Betty Lin of the World Journal. Is it 50,000 or 55,000?
MS. KING: 55,000 is the amount set by Congress. But as I explained, since 1999, 5,000 of those numbers have been set aside for NACARA, the Nicaragua and Central American Relief Act. So the number available for DV-2014 is 50,000.
QUESTION: Okay. Sorry. I was late, so I wasn’t here when you talk about that. And also, the – well, the House just passed – well, the House voted on the bill that would eliminate Visa Lottery Program right before they recess. And what’s your take on eliminating visa --
MS. KING: Yeah. I can’t comment on legislation. Sorry.
MODERATOR: Please. Okay. Are there any other questions?
QUESTION: Oh, do you have a country breakdown --
MODERATOR: Oh, fine. I’m sorry. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have country breakdown for this fiscal year, the visa that --
MS. KING: For 2012? For --
MS. KING: We do – what do we have statistics for, Rebecca?
MS. THURMOND: We have the number of selected entrants.
MS. KING: Okay.
MS. THURMOND: We have the number –
MODERATOR: Okay. Here, come up to the mike.
MS. THURMOND: Sorry. Okay.
MS. KING: So yeah. We have a lot of statistics, so if you can be a little more specific it would help.
MS. THURMOND: Okay. All the statistics are available on our travel.state.gov website, to start with. But we have the number of entrants for the years DV-2007 through DV-2013. We have the number of selected entrants, so people that are allowed to move forward in the visa process for DV-2013 and previous years. And then we also have the number of visas actually issued under the program. We only have those from DV-2011. And back – because the DV-2012 year just finished, so we haven’t gotten those tabulations yet.
QUESTION: But we can get the –
MS. THURMOND: They’re all available --
QUESTION: -- 2011?
MS. THURMOND: Mm-hmm. They’re all available on our travel.state.gov website under the Diversity Visa Program information. There’s a tab that has diversity visa statistics.
QUESTION: And could I have – also, your antifraud campaign or how do you prevent people sending emails saying that “Oh, you’re lucky that you got a -- ” well, visa lottery and what – “Please come up,” or things like that?
MS. KING: Right. I mean, first of all, people should know that in order to know whether they’ve been selected or not, they need to proactively reach out. So if anybody else is coming to them and saying that they’ve won, and they haven’t reached out and been identified on the site when they’ve reached out as having been selected, it’s not real. Also, the U.S. Government sites all end with .gov, so be aware that if somebody gets something from .org or a commercial site, that that’s not going to be an authentic confirmation that somebody has been selected to apply.
But again, they need to be proactive. I know that this is a bit of a change from how we did it some years ago, when we sent notification letters in the mail, but the point is we don’t want anybody to be able to intercept the messages. So people need to use that unique identifier, and that will enable them to confirm whether they’ve been selected to apply.
QUESTION: So you won’t send out emails (inaudible)?
MS. KING: No. There are eventually emails. Once you have been selected and once you are in the application process, at that point you will start getting emails from a .gov address. But to find out initially whether you have been selected, whether you’ve won the lottery, that’s not going to be pushed at you. You have to go yourself to get that information from the site.
MS. KING: Okay.
QUESTION: Brian Beary from Europolitics. Just some follow-on questions from that. I know that you did switch to this more proactive system a couple of years ago, and – but just – have you studied what – the impact of that? Because I’m just wondering if a lot of people kind of forget that they had done it and then don’t check, and then so you have a lot of people who are selected, but then not everybody goes onto the website and checks it. Has there been that phenomenon?
The other thing was I know that you split into six regions, but is there any sort of ceiling on the amount that an individual country can get?
MS. THURMOND: It’s the overall --
MS. KING: Yeah. There’s the overall – it’s the – come on over here, just so –
MS. THURMOND: Right. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: And the other sort of related question: Have you ever done a report not just on the nationalities of the recipients, but sort of on their backgrounds, professional backgrounds, whether they’re more university educated or what kind of – what background?
MS. KING: Yeah. Let’s break it down. I’m beginning to forget the pieces of your question. But first of all, on the statistical breakdown.
MS. THURMOND: Okay. There is no breakdown by country, and like – there’s no cap or maximum per country under diversity visa, except for the overall cap that we have on more than 7 percent of the immigrants in all immigrant visa classes can come from any one country. So that does exist. So within any one country, no more than 7 percent in a year, but other than that, there’s no cap within each region.
MS. KING: Okay. And then just to go back, in terms of – we did significant outreach this year for DV-2012 to make sure that people were reminded that they needed to go and check proactively the site, beginning in April, was it? Yeah.
MS. THURMOND: May.
MS. KING: May. In May. Okay. So that we asked our posts in the field to do outreach, and we did some here as well, just to make sure that everybody understood that they couldn’t just sit and wait, because nothing was going to happen, that they actually had to proactively go out and do that. So we will continue to do that again next year. We will ask our posts in the field to advertise that fact.
MODERATOR: Okay. Great. We will – I’m sorry.
QUESTION: The national background – on the – just any other information on who tends to receive these diversity visas, their backgrounds?
MS. KING: We don’t really have – I mean, again, they have to meet the very strict criteria set out by the law. But in terms of within that group whether it seems – tends to be more or less educated, we don’t have a breakdown of that, no.
MODERATOR: Okay. Great. We’ll go in the back. Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you for taking my question. My name is Nikki Kazimova. I represent Echo Newspaper in Azerbaijan. I just arrived, so I don't know if anyone already asked that question. What determines the number of finalists by country?
And the reason I’m asking this question is that consistently, from year to year, the number of people who receive the diversity visa from Azerbaijan has been about 300-something. And if you look at the statistics, for example, with neighboring Armenia, their numbers are consistently over a thousand, 1,200 or over. And that has not changed over the years. It remains the same. So it does not correspond to this – to the population or any other statistics that could explain that. So how is it actually determined, the number --
MS. KING: It really is a completely random process. Do you have any other –
MS. THURMOND: I would comment that it has to do with how many people enter. That’s the main reason why you’ll see more from one country than another, because it is completely random within the number of people who enter within any one region. However, if you’re seeing a lot more people selected from one country versus another in the same region, it’s likely that far more people entered from that other country. The number of entries are also available on our statistics website. So you can compare, for example, those between Azerbaijan and Armenia. You might note that probably far more people from Armenia were actually entered in the process.
QUESTION: And one unrelated question: There was a notation on the DV website that the DV-2013 entrants should keep their confirmation numbers, as it is possible that more entries may be selected, October 1st – which is today – 2012, at noon as we speak. So can you comment on that?
MS. KING: For DV-2013?
MS. KING: Okay. Yeah. If there are not enough qualified entrants – we always – we select more winners than the 50,000, because we know that not everybody is going to qualify, not everybody is even going to pursue the visa. And we hope that we select enough more that we get about what we need. But if we get to a point where we think we may not meet the 50,000, then we will go back and again randomly select more.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up question. But I have not seen that notation before. It seems like this is the first year this is being done, the additional selection in October, other than what was done in April or May. Or is it a standard practice; it just has been posted on the website and we weren’t aware of that before?
MS. THURMOND: So I can answer that. We have done this in the past, but what happened was that was when we were using a mail notification, so what happened was we simply sent out more letters to people. Now that we’ve moved to an electronic notification, people have to go on and check again to find out if they were added to the second group. So it is a practice we’ve done in the past, but this is the first time that people have to check back in to find out if they were selected as part of the second group.
MODERATOR: Okay. Great. We’re going to take another one in the back. Thank you.
QUESTION: Sonia Kanikova, Deutsche Welle, Southeast Europe. I want to ask you what is the tendency in the numbers of applicants each year for the diversity program? Growing or falling?
MS. THURMOND: Okay. So the number stayed – it grew incrementally for several years, and then for last year versus this year, we actually had a significant drop. We think that primarily had to do with the elimination of one country, Bangladesh, from which there used to be literally millions of applicants – or entrants, I should say. So once Bangladesh was eliminated, the overall number of entries received was lowered.
MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll take your follow-up question and then we’ll move to that.
QUESTION: It’s not a follow-up question. It’s a separate question. There was a Q&A at my newspaper with one of the consular officers stationed in my country. And someone asked whether applying for diversity visa qualifies as when you check out – when you fill in the application for a visa, you have to say whether you’ve ever applied for a green card. And his answer seemed to suggest that yes, it does. And at the same time, from other sources that we looked at, it did not seem that way. So can you clarify whether that actually counts as applying for a green card, for, say, just entering the Diversity Visa Lottery?
MS. KING: I’m trying to remember what the exact question on the visa application form is. I mean, again, it does not count against somebody. I think that the question is whether – if you’ve applied for the DV lottery, whether that negatively affects you if you’re also applying for a nonimmigrant visa. It should not affect you at all. The consular officer looks at everybody’s situation individually. A lot of people just put their name in the hat for DV lottery just to see what might happen, and it’s no indication that they intend to leave their country. But they should always be honest on their application, and if they have put in for an immigrant visa, say that.
MODERATOR: Okay. Betty.
QUESTION: Thank you. You said people should use their personal email address. And can one person use different personal email address to apply? Is there multiple application be available, or like, can different members of the family apply differently, not counted as one?
MS. KING: Different adult members of the family can apply if they otherwise qualify, given the country requirements and the education and so forth requirements, yes. But one person can only apply once. If somebody applies twice, if they try to use different email addresses to fool the process, we will find out. We have a technology that helps to filter those cases, and that makes people disqualified.
QUESTION: But multiple people can share and (inaudible)?
MS. KING: Yeah. Right. I mean, if you have a family and they all use the same email address, then yes, as long as it’s different people.
MODERATOR: Okay. Great. Are there any additional questions? Great. Well, then that concludes our briefing at this time. Thank you very much.
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