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10,000 Cameroonians Have Been Issued Diversity Visas 

Interviewed By Yerima Kini Nsom & Nelen Tambe

CameroonPostline.com — The Consular Officer at the US Embassy in Cameroon, Doni Phillips, has revealed that approximately 10,053 Diversity Visas, DVs, have been issued to Cameroonians since the creation of the programme that is commonly referred to as the “American Lottery.”

The official made the disclosure in an exclusive interview with The Post in Yaounde recently, ahead of the launching of this year’s DV Lottery programme on October 1. Among other issues, Doni Phillips talked on the criteria for winning the lottery and why some winners are refused visas. Excerpts:

The Post: There has been a mad rush for Diversity Visa Lottery, DV, what is the programme all about?

Doni Phillips: The Diversity Visa Lottery programme was established by Congress where they make available 50,000 visas per year worldwide. It is split among all the countries in the world except countries that have sent a bunch of immigrants to the States in the last five years. 50.000 is the cut-off, so Cameroon qualifies. Almost all countries in Africa are eligible except Nigeria which would be going out of the programme for 2015 because they have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States.

When did the US Congress institute this programme and why?
 

The Diversity Visa Lottery was created in 1990. But, it didn’t take off until October 1995. It is about diversity. Congress implemented it in order to bring people from under represented countries to the US. I am not sure of the year but we shall get back to you on that.

What are the criteria for eligibility?
 

They are pretty simple criteria. You have to be from a country that is eligible for the lottery. You need to meet educational or work experience guidelines. For educational experience, you need to have basically the equivalent of the US high school education. That is, a twelve year education. Here in Cameroon that will be “A” Levels having passed two subjects (one of which is not Religion) or Baccalaureate. Basically, what you will need to get into the university is the educational criteria. Cameroon has a good educational system that is why a lot of people qualify from here.
 

In the work experience side, you need to have experience working in the field that is listed on our Department of Labour website. You need to have two years experience in the last five years working in a job where you need at least two years of training. For work experience, it is a little more difficult to qualify just because the bar has set pretty high standard for that. For example, a high school graduate could qualify for a Diversity Visa but you could be like a nursing assistant or you could be in some kind of a medical field and still not qualify. You need to have a high level on the work side.

Can you state clearly the conditions for eligibility for countries? We would like to know why some countries are accepted and others are not?

There is a list published every year on which countries are not eligible. The Department of Homeland Security compiles immigration States every year. They look back for the past five years to determine which countries have sent more than 50 000 immigrants to the United States. For example; China, Canada, Brazil, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Mexico do not qualify because they have sent a lot of people to the United States. Cameroon has not sent many people to the US.

How many Cameroonians have gone to the US and are already working in the programme?

There have been approximately 10.053 DVs issued to Cameroonians between 2003 and 2012.  Last year, we issued 900 visas to Cameroonians.

How many Cameroonians are expected to benefit from the programme this year?
 

I think more than 900. We are still wrapping up the programme for this year. But we expect that we have higher numbers.

It looks like certain guarantees for people who succeeded in the programme are no longer there. At first, whoever succeeded was going to have a job.
 

Well, there has never been a guarantee. It is purely a voluntary programme. We don’t provide any specific benefits to people who win. They have to pay their own way, find their own employment and their own places to live. So, there has never been a guarantee with the programme.

Why does it take a very long time for someone who wins to move to the US?
 

It is because we are always working on about three years of the programme at a time. So, for example, the people that will be applying when the programme reopens for entries on October 2013, we won’t start interviewing them until a year from that time. The entries are processed; the people get selected and then have to schedule their appointments. So, it’s a steady process and it has always been the same. It always runs at the same speed.

Is the DV Lottery programme a deterrent to illegal immigration in any way?
 

I think it’s a great option for people who have education and work experience to go to the US. It is a lottery and there is no guarantee. So, it does allow for people, once they go to the US, they can bring their family members over once they get citizenship.
 

You insist so much on people having “A” Level, what about people of  some professions, like drivers, plumbers etc, without the academic qualification ?

I am saying that those people are not qualified for the Diversity Visa Lottery under the US law. So, Congress established the criteria and we just have to implement the law.

Sometimes, people win the DV Lottery but are refused the visa. Is that not controversial?
 

Well, being selected is no guarantee that you are going to get a visa. You have to qualify for the visa. You have to qualify with your educational background and your work experience. Also, you need to make sure to include all of your family members in your entry.

Sometimes we see people who are automatically disqualified because they may be played as a single person when they were already married and had children. So, when we see that at the interview, we have to automatically disqualify people. It is unfortunate but if they had just included all of their family members then we could in many cases had issued them visas even if these members are not planning to travel, you need to just include them.

Do you know that visa refusal actually frustrates many people?

I am sure it does. There is always a reason. We have to follow US law. We issue visas to people who are qualified under the US law.

So far, we know that you have rejected so many applications; could you just state a few reasons for that?

I wouldn’t say most of them are rejected. Talking about Diversity Visas, when we find out that someone has provided us with fraudulent marriage certificate or fraudulent educational document, we have to refuse the person. Also, if they are claiming family members who aren’t really their family members or if they are claiming education or work experience that they really do not have then we have to refuse.

Do you often have cases where you give people short term visas and people do not come back?

Yes we do. We can’t do much on our side from Cameroon. But immigration in the US would have jurisdiction over it. We share information on immigration cases where we work in partner with the Department of Homeland Security and US Citizenship and Immigration Services, CIS.

What is the ratio between those that are rejected and those that are accepted?

Generally, I can’t really give specifics because all the visa types are so different. On the non-immigrant side it’s approximately 50 per cent and the immigrant side is much less because people have family members with some requesting visas for them.
 

I do want to focus a little bit on the upcoming Diversity Lottery. The entries open on October 1 and will end on November 2. I think a lot of people go to internet cafés and off sides providers to put their visa entries in for them, which is fine as people are not prevented for doing so. We really want to encourage people to do it themselves. Its free, you don’t have to pay anybody to do it.

If you have access or if you have family members who have access to the internet in the US or if you do have someone who assists you in this, keep your confirmation number that you get as part of your entry. That is how you find out if you have been selected or not. We have seen in the past where people have held on to confirmation numbers and selecting letters then only give them to the winners after they paid them a lot of money.

So, we want people to be able to go themselves on to the website to check their status with their confirmation numbers. We are looking forward to starting a new season on Diversity Visa Lottery. We’ve got a lot of information on our website which is travel.state.gov.  The instructions are there and the site where you access the DV Lottery entry.

First published in The Post print edition no 01470

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