What is the visa lottery?The visa lottery is the nickname for the U.S. State Department’s Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. It is an annual program to bring in new immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Each year 50,000 diversity visas are available. Sixteen Costa Ricans received diversity visas in 2004.Applications are accepted for only a limited period each year, starting Oct. 1. Companies advertising that they can help or “guarantee” that an applicant will be chosen to receive a diversity visa are fraudulent schemes, as are e-mail notifications that a person has “won” a diversity visa. All forms and information are available without charge and there is no fee for applying. Diversity-visa recipients are chosen by a computer-generated, random lottery drawing. Each application has an equal chance of being selected.To be eligible to apply, an individual must have either a high-school education or its equivalent, or two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience to perform. Applications must be submitted electronically, and each applicant may apply only once. Applying more than once disqualifies an applicant. The U.S. State Department utilizes a number of techniques to weed out fraudulent applications. Anti-fraud measures used for the 2005 lottery resulted in the disqualification of more than 36,000 applications.Qualified lottery winners are notified by mail in late spring and early summer. In order to actually receive a visa, applicants selected must meet all eligibility requirements under U.S. law. For the 2005 lottery, the U.S. State Department accepted 6,332,292 lottery entries representing 10,743,405 people (including dependants). Over the last three days of the 2005 registration period alone, the department registered more than one million applications. The top 15 countries in terms of number of applicants were Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Egypt, Nepal, Morocco, Ghana, Peru, Poland, Albania, Iran, Kenya, Bulgaria and Burma. Approximately 44% of the applicants were from Africa, 27% from Asia, 22% from Europe, 7% from Latin America, and fewer than 1% each from Pacific Ocean countries and North America.Additional details of the program, as well as the electronic application form, can be found at the U.S. State Department’s Web site, www.travel.state.gov/visas. How to Apply for a Nonimmigrant Visa to Visit the United States The application process for a U.S. visa is mistakenly perceived as a daunting task. In reality, it merely takes time and preparation. The following steps outline the nonimmigrant visa application process:1. The first step is to identify the type of visa for which you are eligible. To do this, consult the Web sites of the U.S. State Department at www.unitedstatesvisas.gov or the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica at http://sanjose.usembassy.gov/consnonimmigrant. html. Descriptions detailing visa types and qualifications can be found here.2. To make your visa appointment (and have the call charged to your phone bill), call 900-1-VISA-USA (900-1-847- 2872), Monday to Friday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m., or Saturday, 8 a.m.-noon. To schedule an appointment and pay directly by credit or debit card, dial 208-4949 during the same hours. For visa information only, call 208-4922. Make sure to make this appointment well in advance of the anticipated departure date, as the appointment backlog is currently about three months. 3. There is a $100 nonrefundable fee for each visa application. This fee is charged to all applicants for U.S. visas worldwide. The fee must be paid before the interview at any Banco Nacional branch, and the receipt presented at the interview.4. In preparation for the interview, consult the embassy’s Web site to learn what documents should be brought to the appointment. It is crucial to begin preparing these documents early so that all documents will be ready to present to the consular officer who conducts the interview.5. On the date of the appointment, there may be a wait of several hours at the embassy while the data entry, interviews and visa printing are done. Also, fingerprints (index fingers only) will be taken.6. If approved, the nonimmigrant visa will be available for pickup often on the day of the interview or the following day. If you have additional questions, email the U.S. Embassy at firstname.lastname@example.org.