Ghanaians desirous of travelling to the United States of America (USA) face a daunting task as President Donald Trump has endorsed a legislation that will abolish Visa Lottery, as well as curb the level of legal immigration using skills-based immigration system.
Analysts say if the bill is passed and implemented, it could cut legal migration to US by some 50%.
Over 20,000 Ghanaians in US with Visa lottery
According to the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the US Department of State, about 20,000 visas have been issued to Ghanaians who won the Diversity Visa Lottery and were qualified to enter the United States.
Data available on the website of the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the US Department of State on immigrant number use for visa issuances and adjustments of status in the Diversity Immigrant Category provided the figures for 2005 to 2014.
In operation, since 1995, the visa lottery seeks to diversify the US immigrant population by granting visas to underrepresented nations.
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.
This money is paid to the cashier of the embassy.
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)”.
Visa lottery breakdown
The breakdown of the visas issued to Ghanaian winners include 2005 – 1,134 visas; 2006 – 1,209 visas; 2007 – 978 visas; 2008 – 1,868 visas; and 2009 – 1,912 visas.
The rest are 2010 – 2,660 visas; 2011 – 2,460 visas; 2012 – 1,689 visas; 2013 – 1,895 visas; and 2014 – 1,460 visas.
It must be noted that not all the number of people successfully selected in the computerised random selection process qualify to enter the US.
For example, in 2016, 6,000 Ghanaians were successfully selected in the computerised random selection process.
However, only 2,500 Ghanaians out of the 6,000 qualified to enter the United States after winning the 2016 DV Lottery.
US Embassy explains
“Of the remaining 3,500, some may not have followed through and never applied for the visa,” said US Embassy Press Attaché Sara Veldhuizen Stealy.
“Some may have been disqualified because they did not meet the basic requirements of a secondary education for all applicants, and others may not have qualified for other reasons”, she added.
She said the U.S. government does not track statistics related to those who are refused diversity visas because they do not meet the minimum requirements.
“The requirements are explained in the instructions for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Programme, and during the registration period we encourage Ghanaians to read the instructions, assess their qualifications, and apply only if they meet the requirements,” she added.
Chain migration to be cut
The proposed bill would cut back on “chain migration” ways of immigrating to the United States that are based on family or not based on skills.
Limit on family members
The bill would limit the types of family members of immigrants that can also be brought to the US to, primarily, spouses and minor children, and would also eliminate the international diversity visa lottery and limit the number of annual refugee admissions.
Grading system for new immigrants
The proposal would then establish a grading system for new immigrants where the prospective green cardholders would be judged on their median salary, advanced degrees, ability to speak English, skills needed by the economy and whether you are able to afford your own healthcare.
“The effect of this, switching to a skills-based system and ending unfettered chain migration, would be over time you would cut net migration in half, which polling shows was supported overwhelmingly by the American people in very large numbers”, some analysts said.
President Trump backed the Bill
President Trump backed the effort from Republican Senators David Perdue and Tom Cotton in a speech at the White House.
But the plan faces long odds in Congress, where both Democrats and Republicans have responded to the proposal with scepticism.
Trump casts the proposal as a way to protect American workers by reducing unskilled immigration and creating a merit-based system that grades possible immigrants based on their ability to work in the United States.
“It has not been fair to our people, to our citizens, to our workers,” Trump said of the current immigration system, specifically citing low-income and minority workers.
The bill, Trump said, “would represent the most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century.”
Trump has long said he wants to reform the nation’s immigration system, but any plan to do that seems like less of a priority for an administration that is now focused on healthcare, tax reform and a host of international issues.
235,000 Ghanaians in USA
A report published in May 2015 by Migration Policy Institute (MPI) of the USA said there are about 235,000 Ghanaians currently living in the USA.
The report was prepared for the Rockefeller Foundation-Aspen Institute Diaspora Programme (RAD).