HK joins Green Card lottery
By VICTORIA FINLAY
PEOPLE from Hong Kong are for the first time to be included in a lottery in which they could win permanent residency in the United States.
Just one day after the deadline passed for the final phase of the British Nationality Scheme, the United States has said it will allow the territory's residents to join in the annual draw for a US Green Card.
The development has come about due to changes in the way countries qualify for inclusion in the lottery, which this summer will award 50,000 US visas at random to nationals of other countries.
US Consulate spokesman Vallerie Steenson said yesterday that the number of visas for Hong Kong had not been finalised, but ''it will be hundreds, not thousands''.
Ms Steenson said many thousands of local people were expected to make applications for the lottery that attracts millions of letters every year from people around the world hoping for a chance to live and work legally in the US.
Despite the strict ruling that people have to start their new life in America within four months of their visas being processed, Ms Steenson said almost all of the winners took up the offer.
In previous years, Hong Kong had been disqualified from the ''Diversity Visa Lottery'' because more than 50,000 immigrants from the territory had gone to live in the US in the previous five years, Ms Steenson said.
But declining numbers of local emigrants had combined with a new system of calculating visa numbers on a regional basis, permitting the names of Hong Kong nationals to be among those pulled out of the visa lottery computer this year.
Nationals of China, Britain (not Northern Ireland), Taiwan, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Canada and a few other places would not be eligible to apply this year because their countries had exceeded the allowable visa quota.
US Consulate figures for last year showed 13,142 Hong Kong people were given visas, down from 14,882 in 1992 and 18,880 in 1991.
There is no application fee or special application form for the lottery, and Ms Steenson warned that the service of a lawyer would not give any applicants a better chance of winning.
''It's a very simple application process,'' she said.
According to the rules of the lottery, all applicants must have a high school education or equivalent or, within the past five years, have two years of work experience in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience.
Each applicant should apply once only - multiple applications will lead to disqualification - by typing, or writing clearly in English on a plain sheet of paper his or her full name, date and place of birth, mailing address and native country.
Similar details should be given for a spouse and children below the age of 18.
Entries should be mailed to the address below in a regular or airmail envelope with the applicant's native country, full name and mailing address typed or clearly printed in the Roman alphabet in the upper left-hand corner of the envelope.
All entries must arrive between June 1 and June 30; anything arriving before or after that period would be void.
Entries from Hong Kong applicants should be sent to: DV-1 programme, National Visa Centre, Portsmouth, NH 00210, USA. The hotline number in the US is (202) 663 1600.