In the 1990s, the federal government devised the diversity visa lottery system that allows immigrants from countries with low immigration quotas a better chance at staying in the United States. Although this program has allowed many individuals and families to become long-term residents of the Chicago area, it may soon be eliminated through legislative action.

Most of the ongoing immigration reform discussion is focused on granting an adjustment of status to highly skilled workers, rather than giving every immigrant equal footing. The lottery system, which allows green cards to be issued with the luck of the draw, isn't included in the reform proposal at this time.

Under the current system, a person can enter the visa lottery if they can pass criminal background check and have the equivalent of a high school education or some professional experience. The idea behind this is that it allows any immigrant to have a chance at living in the United States and finding opportunity, no matter which country they come from or how specialized their line of work is.

Immigration reform talks are still ongoing, so there is no indication exactly what the final proposal will look like. In the same vein, there is no word as to whether the federal reform will actually be passed during this legislative session. Until then, immigrants can work through the current system and find a way to continue their lives in the United States.

No matter how the immigration reform shapes up, it could mean major changes for many individuals and families looking to obtain legal status. The hope is that that a proposal, if it prevails, will truly take into account the needs of the thousands of families currently looking to receive a green card.

Source: Voice of America, "US Green Card Lottery Faces Elimination," Brian Padden, May 16, 2013