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Diversity lottery winners from travel ban countries out of luck

On Behalf of | Oct 2, 2017 | Family Immigration

The U.S. Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) lottery grants immigrant visas to 50,000 people from countries with historically low rates of immigrantion to the U.S. This year, two applicants from Iran and two from Yemen were among the randomly selected winners of that lottery, which was supposed to allow them and their families to move to the U.S. and become lawful permanent residents.

Unfortunately, their dreams of moving to the United States are being deferred — and that may mean those dreams are denied altogether.

The reason is the Trump administration’s travel ban. The four families met the strict requirements of the program, were thoroughly vetted and completed their consular interviews on time. They met all the requirements of the program, but the U.S. government has decided not to honor its end of the bargain. The reason? They were told they don’t have a “bona fide relationship” with the U.S.

In January, President Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning travel or immigrantion from certain, mostly majority-Muslim nations. He revised that temporary order in March. Then, in September, he issued a purportedly permanent ban on people from eight nations: Iran, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Chad, North Korea and Venezuela.

Since Iran and Yemen have always been among the countries affected by the ban, the State Department refused to issue visas to the four DV lottery winners and their families.

The DV process is not supposed to involve discretion. Once the randomly selected winners successfully complete the eligibility, vetting and interview process, U.S. law requires that they be given the visas — but a federal judge has just declined to order that.

Moreover, the rules say that if DV lottery winners don’t complete the process by Sept. 30, they could be denied their visas and have to apply again. The federal judge who declined to order their visas be granted did offer some small relief: If there were any excess visas left after Sept. 30, they will be saved for these families.

Unfortunately, winning a Diversity Immigrant Visa is probably a once-in-a-lifetime proposition. According to the U.S. Department of State, 9,399,747 people applied for the program in 2015, with similar numbers in previous years. The number of winners is limited to 50,000 per year. There won’t be any excess visas.