It has emerged that about 1.7 million Ghanaians sought to leave Ghana for the US in 2015 through the US visa lottery. The number, which is the highest from a single country represented 12% of the total 14 million people who applied within that year.
It also translated to 7 percent of the total Ghanaian population. In 2017, a total of 19 million people applied for the visa program with the US admitting just 50,000 of them. Currently, the U.S. visa program is facing elimination under several bills being considered by Congress.
In operation since 1995, the visa lottery seeks to diversify the U.S. immigrant population by granting visas to underrepresented nations. Citizens of countries with the most legal immigrant arrivals in recent years – such as Mexico, Canada, China and India – are not eligible to apply. Legal immigrants entering the U.S. on a diversity visa account for about 5% of the roughly 1 million people who are awarded green cards each year.
Those eligible for the lottery face few barriers when applying. There is no fee to apply; applications are available in many languages and only limited biographical information must be submitted. If selected for a diversity visa, however, individuals must provide detailed background information and submit to visa interviews, security checks and health screenings and pay $330.
Upon entry into the U.S., diversity visa recipients are given lawful permanent residence status, which gives them permission to work and live permanently in the U.S.
The Pew Research report indicated that “In fiscal 2015 (the most recent year for detailed data on application countries), about 12% of the 14.4 million people who applied for the visa lottery were citizens of Ghana (1.7 million). An additional 10%, or nearly 1.4 million applicants, were from Uzbekistan. Other top application countries included Ukraine (nearly 1.3 million applicants), Iran (more than 900,000) and Nepal (nearly 900,000).
Numbers include principal applicants, their spouses and their children.” Other countries with high number of applicants include, the Republic of Congo; which has 10% of the country’s citizens applying for the program in 2015. Liberia follows with 8% with Sierra Leone coming next at 8% of its population.
In Europe, 7% of citizens of Albania and 5% of Moldova citizens applied to for the lottery program. In Asia, Uzbekistan and Nepal have also had vast shares of their populations apply.