It has been a complicated year for 55,000 foreigners who won the 2020 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program from among 14 million qualified entries, or more than 23 million individuals including family members.
First, U.S. embassies and consulates around the globe halted, in March, non-emergency visa services due to the coronavirus pandemic — and only recently has the Department of State restarted phased routine services for immigrant and travel visas.
Then, in April came President Trump’s Proclamation 10014 suspending entry of immigrants who present a risk to the U.S. labor market. Meanwhile, all the diversity visas available for Fiscal Year 2020 must be issued no later than Sept. 30, 2020.
Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the District Columbia ordered the Trump administration to allow diversity visa lottery winners in, after a civil rights coalition filed a lawsuit challenging Trump’s immigration ban.
After the ruling, the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs said that, notwithstanding the presidential proclamation, “DV-2020 applicants may be processed in embassies and consulates where local health conditions and post resources allow.”
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program allocates up to 55,000 permanent resident cards, known as green cards, for immigrants with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S. The winners were drawn from random selection by computer from among qualified entries.
Diversity Visa Lottery 2020 deadline approaching
Ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline, foreigners have scrambled to find a consular interview, one of the key requirements for the issuance of an immigrant visa under the popular program.
So far, the Department of State has issued only 14,636 of the 55,000 diversity visas allocated for Fiscal Year 2020, according to immigration attorney Curtis Morrison, who represents over 3,000 of the plaintiffs.
“The State Department has had three weeks since the order to issue visas and yet over 40,000 are left,” Morris said to the Miami Herald. “That is unacceptable. They were not really trying”.
As of Sept. 24, 2020, consular officers had approved issuance for 523 diversity visas to the principal applicants and derivatives in the cases associated with named plaintiffs, according to a court filing submitted on Friday.
A State Department spokesperson told Forbes magazine, that it was “unlikely that the U.S. would be able to accommodate all diversity visa applicants before Sept. 30 due to limitations brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.”
But visa applicants and their attorneys are optimistic that U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta, who is presiding over these cases, will extend the Sept 30 deadline.
“All DV winners have a lot of anxiety right now because without the intervention of the court, their opportunities for immigration to the U.S. are over,” said Morrison.
Judge Mehta has set a hearing for Monday at 3 p.m. There is a public access line for those who want to listen: +1 (404) 443-2170. Access code: 321-8747.
More hurdles for Visa Lottery winners
Many winners, such as Cuban and Venezuelan nationals, are facing additional hurdles, because there are no consular services in their countries and they must travel to other countries for their appointments.
But because of travel restrictions and quarantine requirements they simply cannot travel.
Georgetown, Guyana, for example, is the designated processing post for Cuban Immigrant Visas since 2018. Venezuelans have to get appointments in Bogotá, Colombia.
Liuvan Castillo, a DV-2020 Cuban winner, shared her frustration on Twitter: “As you should know, the airports are closed and the Cuban government will not allow any visa winner or other people to leave the island. We have strongly requested that all these factors be taken into account and the winners of DV2020 be processed in Havana,” she wrote.
Even if they get a visa issued, all visa lottery winners across the globe must wait until Jan. 1, 2021, to come to the U.S. unless they qualify for an exception, because the president’s labor proclamation forbids entry to certain immigrants, including Diversity Visa winners.
The proclamation extends through the end of the year.
Daniel Shoer Roth is a journalist covering immigration law who does not offer legal advice or individual assistance to applicants. Follow him on Twitter @DanielShoerRoth or Instagram. The contents of this story do not constitute legal advice.