As 7th largest immigrants, Pakistanis not eligible for US diversity visa

United States hosts around 1 million Pakistani immigrants


Yusra Salim July 22, 2016
Diversity visas are issued to countries with a low rate of immigration. Pakistanis can, however, apply for a number of different visas, such as tourist and student. PHOTO: COURTESY US CONSULATE KARACHI

KARACHI: After forming the seventh largest immigrant population in the United States (US), Pakistanis are no longer eligible for the diversity visa.

The diversity visa is a special immigration lottery that allowed families from countries with low rates of immigration into the US to qualify for the move. A lot of Pakistani families used this facility to immigrate to the US, leading to an immigrant population of between 700,000 and one million Pakistanis.

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According to the US law, diversity laws are only allowed to counties that have low rates of immigrants, said US consulate in Karachi's spokesperson Brian Asmus, during a media tour of the Karachi consulate's visa section on Friday. Pakistan had 104,000 immigrants in the 10 years between 2005 and 2014, he said, explaining why Pakistanis are no longer eligible.

The state department has only stopped diversity visas and there are a lot of other options, such as petitions, student, visit and exchange programme visas, which come under the non-immigrant category. "One can always apply for immigrant visa if they have immediate family in the US," explained US consulate's Non-Immigrant Visa chief Mary Pellegrini.

She also explained that it takes around one year for spouse and children, two years for parents and, for siblings, the time can vary up to a decade.

Nevertheless, the Pakistanis who have managed to immigrate are doing pretty well. According to a recent survey, an average Pakistani in the US earns $63,000 every year while an average US citizen earns only $51,000 a year, said Asmus.

Asmus dismissed the misconception that fewer Pakistanis are able to get visa for the US. The percentage of applications is increasing every year and the number of Pakistani citizens getting visas has also increased by 20% between 2014 and 2015, and another 20% between 2015 and 2016, he said.

The US Consulate in Karachi only deals in non-immigrant visas while immigrants visas are dealt at the embassy in Islamabad. Last year, the consulate issued a total of 72,000 visas across the country. So far in 2016, the US consulate in Karachi has issued a total of 14,400 visas.

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For US consul-general Brian Heath, the best part about their work is the bond between the Pakistani and American staff — there are around seven Americans and nine Pakistani's working in the visa section. The best thing about the visa section is that there is no priority given to anyone, whether he/she is a politician or an actor, he added. "It is easy and simple to get the US visa as compared to the process for other countries," he pointed out.

Step-by-step: How to apply for a US visa

The process to apply for a US visa is fairly simple. Candidates can fill out a form online and then set up an interview at the Karachi consulate, explained Pellegrini.
You enter the visa interview section at the consulate from Gate Three, after going through the security checks. At counter number one, the applicants are asked for their biometrics and wait in the two lines, one for English and one for Urdu.
“The language options are given so that candidates who cannot understand English can be entertained by the officers who can understand and speak Urdu,” she said.
The interview section, which is a small area, also has a play area for children and chairs for elderly residents to wait on. Each interview takes five to 10 minutes but some may take longer if there is any confusion in the application.

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“The only reason to interview the candidate is to convince us that he will come back [to Pakistan] and if he is unable to demonstrate his reasons, the officer will reject it,” said Pellegrini. It is in the immigration law that the US assumes that everyone coming to get a visa wants to stay back in the US, she explained. Once the visa is approved, it will take a maximum of two to three days for the consulate to issue the visa.
At the tour of the facility, a female visa officer, who looks after the Urdu section, conducted a mock interview. The consulate also offers interview facilities in Sindhi, Urdu, English, Pashtu and Gujrati. “There is no re-appeal in the visa process in the US system,” she said. “One may re-apply but we ensure they re-apply after a certain time so the circumstances have changed and they get an approval,” she added.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2016.

COMMENTS (29)

izhar | 6 years ago | Reply Dear guyes, When pakistan will show progress and properous,all world will give us privilledge,rather then that.so simply improve ourselves,and no need to worry anything else.Most countries in this world become rich and poor,but honesty and dignity is somthing else!
VINOD | 6 years ago | Reply @Iqbal: In addition every Pakistani earns his/her share of money received in free aid and plus the arms supplied free. If you add all this a Pakistani earns very very much more than an Indian. Then why do you keep abusing Americans and love Chinese. Please answer???
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