Earlier in the year, President Trump issued Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak. This proclamation barred many types of immigrants from entry into the United States, including those seeking entry through the diversity visa program. However, on September 5, 2020, a federal judge in Washington has ordered the Trump administration to resume issuing diversity visas to immigrants through a lottery system.
What is the Diversity Visa Program?
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program allows up to 50,000 people to enter the U.S. annually through an immigrant visa. The program targets countries with low rates of immigration to the United States and randomly draws from a selection of individuals from those countries. The program is run by the Department of State and was established in 1990 to promote immigration from underrepresented countries in the United States. In order to be eligible, the potential immigrants must be from a country with fewer than 50,000 nationals admitted to the U.S. in the past five years. Additionally, applicants must have an equivalent of a high-school education OR at least two years of recent, qualifying work experience.
The Department of State posts detailed instructions on how to apply every year, including important dates and deadlines for the application. If chosen, the applicant and all family members applying together must submit DS-260 online. Once it has been reviewed, applicants will be given instructions on which supporting documents must be submitted. After all necessary documents are submitted to the Department of State, applicants will be scheduled for an interview. At the interview, applicants will be asked to provide a medical examination from an authorized physician (list of authorized physicians are available at U.S. Embassies or Consulates), their passports, appointment information, confirmation of their DS-260 application, and originals plus certified copies of all supporting documents they had previously submitted.
After the interview, applicants will hopefully have an approved visa and will be able to present themselves at a U.S. port of entry (such as an airport) to request entry to the U.S. If admitted, these immigrants will enter as Lawful Permanent Residents and be eligible to work.
If the applicants for a diversity visa are already living in the U.S. as nonimmigrants, they can apply by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This would be done only after being selected in the lottery and ensuring that there is an available visa (this can be verified by checking the Visa Bulletin). Form I-485 would replace having to file Form DS-260.
What the Federal Judge’s Ruling Does
At the time of the immigration ban, the State Department had only issued 12,000 diversity visas for the 2020 fiscal year. This left approximately 38,000 lottery winners without visas issued to them. The new ruling does not force the State Department to issue every single visa to eligible applicants, but it does prohibit it from effectively ending the diversity visa program by simply not issuing the visas to the winners. The ruling orders the administration to “undertake good-faith efforts” to expeditiously adjudicate the diversity visas for fiscal year 2020. The deadline is still set to September 30, 2020, which gives the administration less than a month to issue new visas. However, there is an additional hearing scheduled for September 25 to outline next steps. It is possible that further orders from this hearing will change the deadline and make it possible for more lottery winners to have their visas issued.
If you or a known one has been chosen for a diversity visa and need further guidance, schedule an initial consultation with us today, don't hesitate to contact us at (949) 478-4963.