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LAGOS, NIGERIA.     Thursday, August 28 2003





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Nigerians still qualify for U.S. visa lottery, says official
By Francis Obinor

NIGERIANS who hope to reside in the United States through the Diversity Visa Lottery are still eligible to apply as the country has not exceeded its approved number of immigrants to the U.S. in the last five years.

Meanwhile, the United States Consulate General in Lagos has denied reports credited to the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Leke Pitan that the consulate delayed the procurement of visas to hasten the operation of the siamese twins in America.

The eligibility of Nigerians to apply for the visa lottery was disclosed by Ben Thomson of the U.S. Consulate General Office in Lagos.

Nationals of certain countries specified are not eligible to apply for the lottery programme because they have sent a total of more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the previous five years.

"Over the past years, Nigerians, who have won through DV Lottery have not exceeded the number. So, I don't see Nigeria and any other African country being removed from applying," Thomson said.

He said anybody could apply for someone as far as necessary information and required photographs are supplied.

"Every applicant has an opportunity to apply. We want to eliminate as much fraud as we can. It should be noted that every time fraud is committed, every legitimate applicant is affected," he said.

The consular officer also said the Department of State was implementing the new electronic system in order to improve efficiency in the diversity visa petition process and avail opportunities to many who wish to apply.

The Department of State recently announced in a Federal Register a change on how applicants may apply to participate in the Diversity Visa Lottery programme.

Starting from this year (2003), it said all persons registering for an opportunity to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa under the diversity lottery would have to do so electronically through a designated Internet Website.

It warned that it would no longer accept paper entries or mail-in request for diversity visa registration.

On visa for the siamese twins, reports last Friday in some national dailies (not The Guardian) had credited Pitan as attributing the delay in conducting surgery on the conjoined twins to difficulties in the procurement of visas to the U.S. for the operation at the John Hopkins Children's Hospital in Maryland.

"Government has made money available. We are only delayed because visa has not been issued. As soon as we have it, tickets would be bought and those involved will leave for the United States," Pitan said.

But in his reaction, a US Consulate Officer, Mike Hankey in a chat with reporters at the Public Affairs Office of the Consulate, denied the report and said all those billed to travel with the twins, including their parents had been issued the necessary visas.

"On August 21 (Thursday), visas were issued to one nurse, three doctors, the father of the twins, Mr. Abayomi Shobowale Davies and the two siblings", Hankey said.


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