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.
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.
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.