As we head into the end of the U.S. fiscal year and face a shutdown of the federal government due to the inability of Congress to pass a budget by September 30th, 2023, in the field of immigration the US State Department has been canceling scheduled interviews for over 10,000 devastated FY-2023 Diversity Visa lottery applicants. These interviews will never be rescheduled, as the 55,000 Diversity Visas allotted by Congress for the 2023 fiscal year will be exhausted so that the applicants will have lost their green cards due to the State Department’s actions defeating the purpose of the Diversity green card lottery.
The 10,000 figure represents some 4,000 Diversity Visa selectees or “winners,” and their spouses and minor children. The Consular Electronic Application Center of the U.S. Department of State provides the data from where this figure can be deduced. The designation “Ready” on the charts found there indicates that an interview has been scheduled.
Impact Very Disappointing
The impact of these Biden Administration initiatives is huge for the persons concerned. In preparation for the interviews, many disappointed immigrant visa applicants paid for and completed expensive medical exams required, which are especially a burden in the global south. Other applicants from countries where there are no U.S. embassies, such as Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, traveled to third countries for interviews, only to see those interviews will now be canceled.
Problem Could Have Been Avoided
Viewing this development as the fiscal year comes to an end, Curtis Morrison, an immigration attorney with Red Eagle Law, L.C., who represents many Diversity Visa selectees, said, “What makes me angry is the State Department had opportunities to prevent this outcome.” He points out that from the almost 10 million entries to the FY-2023 DV Program, the State Department could have registered only about 70,000 applicants, instead of 119,962 applicants they did register. That would have made more sense since they only had 55,000 visas to issue. He adds, “This was the State Department setting up a mini-lottery within a lottery that guaranteed over 60,000 applicants will be disappointed, if not injured through costs associated with a medical exam and procuring the other necessary documents for their interviews.” Morrison goes on to point out that when it became evident to most public observers of the DV program in early August that the State Department was on track to consume the allotted number of visas through existing interviews, the Department should have stopped scheduling new interviews – thereby setting up false hopes for thousands who would very likely be refused. He concludes, “It is cruel to crush the dreams of hopeful immigrants in this way.” Kristina Ghazaryan, another U.S. immigration attorney representing Diversity Visa selectees added, “They shouldn’t have scheduled these interviews when they don’t have visas available. It’s financially and emotionally devastating for DV families.”
Background of the Diversity Green Card Program
Immigration attorneys and others working in the field many years ago noticed that certain source countries like Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines were flooding the U.S. with immigrants. On the flip side, there were many countries that were underrepresented. For example, there were very few immigrants coming from African countries or smaller countries elsewhere. To address this imbalance they lobbied Congress to pass a law making up to 55,000 Diversity Visas available each fiscal year for persons coming from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. To ensure fairness, the program introduced a yearly lottery so would-be immigrants from these disadvantaged countries could apply and stand an equal chance to come to the U.S. and at the same time diversify the incoming immigrant population.
Not The First Time
This is not the first year the Biden Administration has botched the management of the program. Indeed, in an ironic twist to this year’s development, the Biden administration appealed orders from U.S. District Court Judges Chutkan and Mehta reserving about 20,000 unused Diversity Visas for FY-2020 and FY-2021 selectees. Those judges found that DV selectees in those two fiscal years were unlawfully denied the opportunity to interview for visas.
Referring to this development, Morrison commented, “What I don’t get is how the Biden administration can be so enthusiastic about the DV program that they blow the cap by 1,000 visas this year, while at the same time, they fight in court to prevent the issuance of Diversity Visas to immigrants that weren’t issued in prior years due to the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies. The vibe I get is that this administration is confused about what it wants.”
In short, the Diversity Green Card Lottery Program deserves better management. Cancelling immigrant interview appointments is unfair to the immigrants involved and to American society as well.