Claims by Lang’ata MP Phelix Odiwour aka Jalang'o that 30 million Kenyans applied for the American Green Card sparked discussions on social media last week painting a picture of despair in the country.
The MP, popularly known as Jalang’o, wondered how dire life has become in Kenya such that half the population would want to leave for good.
“Thirty million Kenyans have applied for the Green Card lottery. So, only 20 million of us want to live in Kenya. Is it that bad?” he posed.
Jalang’o’s sentiments went up in a tweet Thursday evening and generated mixed reactions online.
Some radio stations picked up the conversation and made it a topic of discussion.
A Green Card entitles its holder to permanent status to live and work in the United States.
It can be obtained through a job in the US, a family reunion with US relatives, a large investment in a US company or by winning the Green Card Lottery.
For most people, the lottery is the only chance to move to America and live a sustainable and carefree life as it is very difficult for foreigners to get a permanent job in the USA.
Contrary to Jalang'os claims, official statistics from the US Department of State on the Diversity Visa Programme indicates that the number of Kenyan applicants for the 2021 lottery did not even hit 200,000.
It shows that in fact, the number of Kenyans wishing to permanently migrate to America via the lottery visa program has dropped drastically over the past three years to stand at 173,218 in 2021 compared to 570,081 in 2020 and 443,773 in 2019.
Data on the number of applicants for the 2022 lottery which Jalang’o claimed had crossed the 30 million mark for Kenya is not available on the website for the simple reason that it’s still an ongoing process.
According to the statistics, 4,877,931 Africans applied for a Green Card in 2021, a huge drop from the 10,877,791 and 11,315,826 applications submitted in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
The top five African countries with the highest entries are Egypt ( 872,505), Congo-Kinshasa (747,773), Ethiopia (546,613), Sudan (391,335), and Ghana 380,449 applicants.
Nigeria has been blacklisted from entry since 2015.
Globally, 11,830,707 people applied for the American Green Card in 2021, a drop from 22,425,053 applicants in 2019 and 23,182,554 in 2020.
It shows that 2,353,280 people from Asia made applications, Europe (3,915,557), North America (1,672), Oceania (28,072) while South America, Central America, and the Caribbean had 654,195 entrants.
The US Department of State issued a disclaimer on the website that the totals do not represent the number of diversity visas issued nor the number of selected entrants.
History of Green Card
The foundation for today's Green Card was laid during World War II to control the unregulated entry of people into the US witnessed during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
During this period, America was open to immigrants from anywhere in the world in unlimited numbers.
But in 1940, the US Congress passed the Alien Registration Act which established the first concrete rules for immigrating to the United States.
All immigrants entering the US were inspected and issued an ID card called an "Alien Card" or "Alien Registration Receipt Card" which was bright green. This is how the nickname “Green Card" came about.
But the card was in later years produced in changing colours; first, in yellow (1977-89), pink (1989-97) purple-blue (1997-2010) before the US government decided to go back to the green design which remains in use to date.
Advantages of a Green Card
Owning a US Green Card gives its holder nearly all rights equal to those of a US citizen. These include:
Unlimited residency in the US
Unlimited work permit in the US
Unlimited and easy entry and exit without a visa
Eligibility for Medicare benefits and other government assistance after 5 years as a Green Card holder
The right to study at a US university without risk and up to 80 % cheaper than without a Green Card
The possibility of federal loans for students
Crisis security: Green Card holders are usually not affected by travel embargoes.
Uncomplicated obtaining of business and commercial licenses
Family members (spouses and unmarried children under 21) are automatically eligible for a Green Card as well.
Application for US citizenship is possible after 3 or 5 years as a Green Card holder.