U.S. District Court Protects FY 2020 Diversity Visa Lottery Winners from Entry Ban
September 9, 2020 | United States of America
A U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. has ordered the U.S. State Department to issue Diversity Visas (DVs) to FY 2020 lottery winners by September 30th.
As ordered by the court, the State Department must issue Diversity Visas by midnight on September 30th, which is when the fiscal year ends. September 30th is also the deadline when the eligibility period ends for FY 2020 Diversity Visa lottery winners to receive their visas.
Governing regulations state that Diversity Visas must be issued by the end of each fiscal year. Otherwise, applicants’ eligibility permanently expires. Currently, approximately 43,000 out of the annual 55,000 allotted Diversity Visas have not been issued by the State Department. The agency ceased processing for DVs when it suspended normal operations in March 2020 due to COVID-19. Based on the State Department’s own COVID-19 guidance, it has not resumed processing for Diversity Visas at consulates that have not yet resumed routine processing. However, the District Court ordered the State Department to immediately resume processing for DVs on the basis that they are not excluded from the agency’s list of “emergency” and “mission critical” services that are still conducted even while COVID-19 restrictions remain in place.
Although the U.S. District Court has protected FY 2020 Diversity Visa lottery winners from the Trump Administration’s travel ban, it has upheld all other facets of the entry ban restricting entry into the United States for certain immigrants and nonimmigrants that was implemented on April 22, 2020 through Presidential Proclamation 10014 and further extended through Presidential Proclamation 10052 issued on June 22, 2020. Under the proclamations, entry restrictions for most immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants will remain in place through December 31, 2020 with the possibility of an additional extension.
Because the entry ban remains in effect, applicants who receive DVs before the end of FY 2020 will only be permitted to enter the United States during their visa’s eligibility period. Diversity Visas have a six-month eligibility. Additionally, applicants may enter the United States if the entry ban expires while their visas are still valid.
The State Department must provide on update on September 25th on its compliance with the court order. The agency must also indicate the number of Diversity Visas it has issued by that time.