The Immigration and Naturalization Service began accepting entries for the 2004 visa lottery, Oct. 7.  The period of entry will close at noon, Wednesday, Nov. 6.

The lottery, held annually in the United States as a means of ensuring greater diversity among immigrants, will grant approximately 55,000 entrants permanent residency status in the U.S. without requiring an immigrant petition from an employer or family member.

Approximately 5,000 green cards are earmarked for a program to encourage immigrants from Central America, while the remaining 50,000 “winners” will be selected at random by a computer, according to Beryl Farris, an Atlanta-based solo practitioner of immigration law.

The regulations exclude the 14 countries that have sent the highest number of immigrants to the U.S. in the last five years.

Ineligible participants include nationals of Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom and dependent territories and Vietnam.  However, those from Hong Kong, Macau, Northern Ireland and Taiwan are eligible.

New rules for this year’s lottery procedure require that applicants include 1.5 by 1.5 inch to 2 by 2 inch square passport photo on a light background, said Ms. Farris.

Applicants must also include photographs of his or her spouse, children and children of an ex-spouse, regardless of whether or not the family plans to immigrate to the U.S., said Ms. Farris.  She suggested this new regulation may be prohibitive for some immigration hopefuls, who are not able to gather the necessary information.

The finalized entries are to be sent to the Kentucky consular center by 12 p.m., Nov. 6.  Visa lottery winners will be notified between May and July, 2003 for visas available from Oct. 1, 2003 to Sept. 30, 2003.

For additional information, contact Ms. Farris at (678) 937-0713