Green Card Lottery winners of 2019 and 2020 saw their joy replaced by huge disappointment with the rise of the Corona pandemic. In spring 2020, all Green Card applications, including those of Diversity Visa winners, were halted. However, a new fundamental decision now gives hope!
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For the fiscal year of 2020, fewer than 15,000 immigrant visas were issued instead of the usual 55,000 Green Cards due to the Immigration Ban. All the other Green Card winners were left empty-handed for the time being.
The big problem here is that, unlike almost all other US visa categories, an immigrant visa won in the Green Card Lottery can only be issued until September 30th of the following year.
In the past, this has also led to "winners" coming away empty-handed in the end because the US authorities did not work fast enough. However, this has never happened on such a huge scale, as not a single DV visa has initially been issued since March 202
The most important class-action lawsuit of 2020 was "Gomez vs. Trump," in which Judge Mehta granted in early September 2020 that the US consulates must resume their work before the end of the fiscal year, and try to process as many Green Card Lottery cases as possible.
This resulted in about 6,000 immigrant visas being issued worldwide in just two weeks before the end of September 2020. However, the law still applied that no single DV-2020 visa could be issued after September 30th, 2020. Judge Mehta, therefore, decided as a precautionary measure that an extension of the deadline for a contingent of 9,095 Green Card applications would be discussed later.
On August 17th, 2021, the decision announced by Judge Mehta was published: the US consulates will be obliged to invite the winners of the last year's competition in 2021, or at least 9,095 of them. This means that the total number of DV-2020 visas issued will probably exceed 30,000 after all!
The decision is of extreme importance as a precedent for other pending lawsuits, including DV-2021 and even DV-2022 winners. For the first time in the more than 25-year history of the Green
Any DV-2020 winner who has not received an interview invitation should contact the responsible US consulate and ask for their case to reopen. Since visas are only issued up to a limit of 9,095, it makes sense to contact them quickly.
However, according to our expertise, it is unlikely that many people will attempt to reopen their cases, as their plans have changed and the information about the new decision has not reached everyone.
DV-2021 winners have suffered almost as badly as DV-2020 winners from the Immigration Ban in place until the end of April 2021. It is only since May 2021 that some interview appointments are slowly being arranged at the US consulates. It is likely that very few of the theoretical 55,000 Green Cards will be issued by the end of September.
Without the current ruling, it would have been assumed that all hope would be lost after September 30th, 2021. With this new landmark decision, however, it is more likely than ever that the DV-2021 visas will also be issued after the deadline - whether again by a court decision or by insight from the US State Department.
However, DV-2021 winners can't take any action for the time being. A great many of them are already represented by new class action, but even unrepresented winners may regain hope of receiving their Green Cards after the end of September.
First of all, the consulates are working again. For the DV-2022 winners, the interview invitation phase does not start until October 2021 anyway. However, the classification of Diversity Visa winners into the lowest priority level led to very slow processing. Since consulates now have to invite DV-2020 and possibly DV-2021 winners retrospectively, there could be another critical backlog this year.
In connection with the new policy decision, it was also criticized that the placement of lottery winners in the lowest category of preferences for immigration cases was unreasonable.
Because the lottery, unlike all other US visas, has a hard deadline, the winners should have been placed in a high priority category as "mission-critical." Had this been done, the State Department might have been able to process the cases in time and would not be forced to extend the deadline now.
"While our consular sections, where possible, are scheduling some appointments within all four priority tiers every month, the following lists the main categories of immigrant visas in priority order:
Source: U.S. Department of State
Since the ruling explicitly mentions that the prioritization is wrong and the State Department wants to prevent further promising class actions, there could be a reclassification of the categories and thus faster processing!