By Ray O’Hanlon
After a couple of years of sharp decline, the number of U.S. diversity visas being offered to Irish applicants has risen a notch.
A total of 331 applicants from both the Republic and Northern Ireland are being offered DV-2003 visas by the U.S. State Department.
The visas, more commonly known as Schumer Visas, are distributed every year to applicants from countries with what the State Department describes as “low rates of immigration to the U.S.”
The latest Irish total, which breaks down to 288 visas for applicants from the Republic and 43 for applicants from the North, follows last year’s low number of 146 visas.
A total of 263 visas were awarded the year before that, while the last time the number exceeded 500 was in 1999, when the DV-2000 total for Irish applicants reached 637.
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It is unclear whether the higher Irish total this year is due to a higher number of people applying or simple luck of the draw.
A total of 55,000 Schumer Visas — the program carries the name of Sen. Charles Schumer, who as a congressman devised it — are made available to a worldwide pool of eligible countries each year.
Five thousand of those visas are assigned to Central American countries while the remaining 50,000 are assigned to the pool of qualified entrants which, in the case of the DV-2003 visas, amounted to 6.2 million people.
An additional 2.5 million applications were discounted by the State Department either because they were received too late in the mail or were improperly filled out.
The State Department said that applications for the DV-2004 lottery would be accepted between Oct. 7 and Nov. 6 this year with exact details on how to apply being made public in July or early August.