By Noah Rayman
November 6, 2014

More than 11 million people applied for the annual U.S. visa lottery this year, up 11 percent from a year earlier even as the program appears to be on the verge of ending.

Less than than .5 percent of applicants will receive the opportunity to become permanent residents through the popular program, which has provided green cards to lottery winners since 1990.

But the lottery, which accounts for roughly 5 percent of legal immigration according to the Wall Street Journal, may be eliminated if the Senate passes an overhaul of immigration policy this year, with critics arguing that the lottery can be a security risk, provides residency to low-skilled immigrants, and is unfair to foreigners with family connections to the U.S.

Its backers say the system is particularly beneficial for communities with fewer connections to the United States.

“We must continue our tradition of welcoming people from around the world to the United States,” Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, a Democrat from Brooklyn, told the Journal. “I will work to expand the program, which has been critical for many people from Africa, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe who would not otherwise have the opportunity to come here.”

Write to Noah Rayman at noah.rayman@time.com.

SPONSORED FINANCIAL CONTENT

Read More From TIME

EDIT POST