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News 01 Feb 18

Trump’s Attack on 'Visa Lottery' Alarms Romanians

President Donald Trump’s sharp criticism on the Diversity Visa program in his State of the Union speech is worrying Romanians who wish to use it to leave their country.

Ana Maria Luca
BIRN
Bucharest
US flag. Photo:Mike Mozart/Flikr

US President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech on Tuesday, which called for an end to the Diversity Visas program, has caused alarm in Romania.

The presidential call has made headlines there, raising fears that the program might be stopped in the autumn of this year.

Trump called for the end of the visa lottery that he described as "a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit or the safety of our people.

"It is time to begin moving towards a merit-based immigration system - one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society and who will love and respect our country," Trump said.

The news caused concern in Romania, which has experienced large-scale migration in recent years, with an estimated 2 million people having left the country. According to the US State Department, 516 Romanians were selected for the Diversity Visa 2018.

Adina Popescu, 31, who has decided to apply this autumn, told BIRN that she is worried by Trump’s stance.

She feels that most visa lottery applicants are rarely just high school graduates or unqualified workers, but usually hold graduate diplomas.  

Like many other young Romanians, she is thinking of leaving her country because of its political instability and corruption.

Romania has experienced political turmoil and street protests over the past year, as the government moves to reverse some anti-corruption reforms adopted under pressure from the European Union, which the country joined in 2007.

Popescu has been among the anti-graft protesters that took to the streets in Bucharest in 2017, but said she later concluded that leaving Romania is the best choice and the US is her dream.

“There is still hope. There have been rumours about scrapping the visa lottery program many times, and applicants panic every time there is an attack or a tweet from Trump. But we’ll see in the autumn if the program will last,” she said.

Official data show that citizens of some Balkan states, especially Albania, Kosovo, Romania and Bulgaria, are among the keenest applicants to the so-called visa lottery program, which gives a chance to people from countries that are under-represented among immigrants in the US to go there.

Albanians are the most avid Balkan visa lottery applicants. The number of Albanian applicants rocketed from 87,189 to 173,012 from 2007 to 2014.

Data published by US State Department show that in 2015 close to 200,000 people applied from Albania out of almost 14.5 million applications from across the world. 

Next in line is Bulgaria with 90,000 applications and then Romania with 70,000.

In 2015, 27,385 Serbians applied, while almost 34,000 applications came from Macedonia, 6,379 from Croatia, more than 12,000 from Bosnia, close to 19,000 from Kosovo and 1,623 from Montenegro.

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