Judge saves US visas for some, but not all lottery winners – NBC Chicago


A US judge has reserved around 7,000 visas allowing people who won a lottery aimed at increasing the country’s diversity to try to travel to the United States after the government issued only a fraction of the visas allocated to it. ‘last year.

U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta in Washington issued the order after the State Department granted only 27 percent of the 55,000 diversity visas allocated for the fiscal year that ended in September. The agency said the delays stemmed from issues with the coronavirus, but Mehta said that was only part of the problem.

“Part of this shortfall is undoubtedly due to the hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic is not the main culprit,” Mehta wrote in a decision Thursday evening. “That would be the State Department’s complete cessation of adjudicating diversity visa applications for five months and its illegal removal of the priority of those applications when resuming decisions.”

A State Department official declined to comment on the decision.

Millions of people around the world participate in the lottery each year, in the hope of obtaining a visa to travel to the United States. Their chances are already slim, with up to 55,000 visas booked each year for people from countries with little representation in the United States, many of them from Africa and Europe. From there, applicants have to complete paperwork and wait in another line for a consular interview, and not all get a visa until the United States is exhausted, even in a normal year.

All visas that are not issued generally expire at the end of the fiscal year each September.

These circumstances led Mehta to calculate the number of visas that are expected to remain viable for the more than 20,000 applicants from countries ranging from Cuba to Nepal who have filed a lawsuit for the delays. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they were happy he kept the hopes of some of their clients, but that was not enough, adding that lottery winners now have about a 1 in 3 chance of winning. .

“It is unfortunate that now our plaintiffs have to play another lottery,” lawyer Rafael Urena said in a statement.

After the pandemic hit, the Trump administration froze many green cards issued outside the United States, including diversity visas. The Biden administration lifted the freeze on green cards, but the State Department still did not issue most visas. Applicants sued last year and this year to get saved visas.

Lizbeth Rosales, a 38-year-old woman who studied tourism in Peru, said she was thrilled to win the lottery and hoped to move with her husband and two young children to New Orleans where she worked previously in a hotel.

Now she said their future was uncertain. With the pandemic hitting the Peruvian tourism industry, Rosales said her husband traveled to Canada on a work visa and found a job at a restaurant there. It could take until next year for the U.S. litigation to end and visas to be available, and she doesn’t know if they will win, she said.

“We don’t know how they’re going to distribute them,” Rosales said. “The chances are low.”

Dorisnelly Fuentes Matos called the decision “total injustice”. The 27-year-old lottery winner and her husband traveled from Cuba to Guyana to await an interview at the United States Embassy in Georgetown, which handles visa applications for Cubans, but it never came.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do because we can’t stay here and we don’t have money to go anywhere else,” she said.

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