Federal judge orders processing of visa lottery winners' fiscal year 2020 applications

A federal judge today ordered the U.S. Department of State (USDOS) to process the applications of winners of the FY 2020 diversity visas, commonly known as the visa lottery, as quickly as possible and by September 30, 2020.

In a 85-page documentthe judge Amit P. MehtaThe District Court for the District of Columbia found as follows:

(1) the USDOS policy of not reviewing and adjudicating non-exempt visas is not in accordance with law, is in excess of statutory authority, and is arbitrary and capricious;

(2) that USDOS does not process requests for diversity visa for fiscal year 2020constitutes an unreasonable delay; and

(3) the USDOS's exclusion of FY 2020 diversity visa applications from its guidance on mission critical services is arbitrary and capricious.

The court ruled on diversity visa applications in five consolidated cases, litigated by a coalition of pro-immigrant groups, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the Justice Action Center (JAC) and the Innovation Law Labwith pro bono support from the law firm Mayer Brown LLP.

Reasons for diversity visa processing stoppage

In March 2020, the USDOS has temporarily suspended routine visa services. in consular offices and embassies worldwide due to the pandemic, allowing only "emergency and mission-critical visa services".

In April 2020, the President Donald Trump issued Presidential Proclamation 10014which suspended the entry of all immigrants into the United States for two months, unless they qualify for an exception to the Proclamation.

Two months later, President Trump issued Presidential Proclamation 10052, which extended the suspension of immigrant entry through December 31, 2020, and also suspended the entry of foreign nationals seeking admission on temporary nonimmigrant visas, with limited exceptions.

Visa lottery

Diversity visas allow eligible immigrants from countries with low levels of immigration to the United States to obtain permanent residency in the United States through a lottery. Each year, a "lottery" of 50,000 diversity visas is authorized.

Visa lottery winners must complete the visa application process and travel to the United States before the end of the fiscal year in which the lottery in which they were selected was held. For example, for fiscal year 2020 (October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020), the deadline to obtain the diversity visa and travel to the United States is September 30, 2020.

Visa lottery benefits cannot be carried over to the following year. There are no exceptions.

Among the countries eligible for the fiscal year 2020 visa lottery:

Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela.

From Latin America, are not eligible for FY2020 diversity visas are individuals from Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru and El Salvador.


Individuals abroad who have won the visa lottery for fiscal year 2020 should immediately contact USDOS to process their diversity visa applications by September 30, 2020.

In addition, hire a licensed and experienced immigration attorney to assist you with the immigration process as soon as possible.