Thousands of people who won green cards through the Diversity Visa program are at risk of missing the rare opportunity to immigrate to the US.
Every year, the program grants lawful permanent residence to about 55,000 people from countries with low rates of immigration to the US, with each applicant having less than a one percent chance of winning a green card.
The US government must process visa applications for lottery winners by September 30th, failure to which winners lose their chance to get a green card.
The Wall Street Journal reports that only three percent of the 55,000 visa applications had been processed as of June 2021, with the Biden administration blaming the delay on restrictions related to COVID-19.
With the September 30th closing date fast approaching, several federal lawsuits seeking to compel the State Department to reserve diversity visas to be processed after the next deadline have been filed. A State Department official said 2021 winners are free to apply again next year.
The delay is likely to affect thousands of people from across the world who won the 2021 DV lottery, including 2,777 Kenyans.
They are also likely to incur financial losses as they paid a mandatory $330 (Sh36,000) nonrefundable fee to be interviewed at the US Embassy, in addition to medical examination and translation costs.
Most US consulates across the world were closed for months last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing immigration to a grinding halt.
In the early months of the pandemic, then-President Donald Trump froze some visa types, including diversity visas, citing public health concerns.
Although a federal court partially reversed the diversity visa order in September 2020, the State Department released a new set of visa processing priorities, placing diversity visas in the bottom tier.
The diversity visas remain at the bottom tier despite President Biden’s campaign promises to protect and expand the diversity lottery program.