Citizens of Uzbekistan, winners of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 DV Lottery programs, say they cannot get visas. The US Embassy in Tashkent has not yet returned to normal visa operations due to the pandemic. However, in other Central Asian countries, this process has already resumed.
What is the problem?
Thousands of green card lottery winners around the world are suing the U.S. government. There are Uzbeks among them.
Curtis Morrison, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said on Twitter that the lawsuit against the U.S. government was filed on behalf of more than 24,000 people from 141 countries. The case is expected to be heard by the District of Columbia Court.
Thousands of winners of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which has filed a lawsuit, are worried that they will lose the opportunity to start a new life in the United States as the United States refuses to process their applications.
The DV Lottery program is open to citizens of all countries except those who have immigrated to the United States 50,000 citizens in the past five years. Uzbeks are also eligible to participate in the program. Every year, 55,000 people around the world are selected from the lottery participants. They are guaranteed not to include U.S. citizens or representatives from countries that cannot participate in the program.
This program is intended to grant permanent residency status to individuals who meet simple but strict requirements. Generally, the applicant must have at least a secondary education and have graduated from a lyceum or college in Uzbekistan. Green card holders are randomly selected. Visas are limited by country and region. No country will be issued more than 7% (3.5 thousand) of the total green card.
But not all of the green card winners were able to travel to the United States. In May 2016, 4,501 people won, and in May 2017, 4,494 people from Uzbekistan won. However, in 2017, only 3,199, in 2018, 2,058, and in 2019, 823 citizens of Uzbekistan gained the right to permanent residence in the United States through the DV program.
The coronavirus pandemic has also had an impact on the immigrant visa program. On March 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of State announced that visa services will be discontinued by all consulates, missions and embassies in foreign countries.
In April 2020, the US President Donald Trump signed a decree temporarily suspending immigration to the country. The document provided for a halt to the issuance of green cards to foreigners for at least 60 days to guarantee Americans jobs in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. The restriction was later extended indefinitely.
It should be noted that visas issued through the DV Lottery program have fixed deadlines, and if the permit is missed, the applicant may be completely deprived of the opportunity to immigrate to the United States under the program.
More than a dozen Uzbeks, winners of the lotteries in 2019, 2020 and 2021 and holders of green cards, told Kun.uz that they have not been invited for an interview yet.
“I work for government organization. I was overjoyed when I won the green card. Even my parents don’t know about it yet. After the interview, I wanted to announce it. But now I’m worried that everything will turn into a mirage.
In a number of countries, such as our neighbors, green card winners are already interviewed and leaving for America. But for some reason we are staying away from it,” one of the compatriots, who asked to remain anonymous, said.
“My wife won the green card lottery in 2019. We had the interview on March 20, 2020. Before entering the interview, we paid a total of $990 to the embassy for myself, my wife and daughter, and $205 per person for a medical examination. However, we have not yet received a visa.
So far, we have received the same response every time through our emails, they have stated that visas are not currently issued due to the pandemic. We also called the embassy. We also get the same answers on the phone. We are tired of abstraction.
If the situation is really related to the pandemic, then why are visas issued to green card winners in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and other countries? Is their situation better than ours? If the epidemiological situation is so bad, why is the US Embassy in Tashkent issuing nonimmigrant visas, that is, visas for tourism and travel, education, and exchange programs? After all, the US State Department has instructed embassies in foreign countries to consider immigration visas in the first place, but why is it delaying the issuance of visas under the DV program, which falls into this category. We have many questions, but no answers,” Bakhtiyor Badalov said.
“Almost everyone knows that a green card is a lottery. We were lucky enough to win this lottery. But we have to go to court to get the promised victory. True, the pandemic has changed a lot. We have waited patiently so far because we have correctly assessed the situation. If the citizens of other countries were waiting like us, we probably would not have gone to court to protect our rights. However, U.S. embassies in many countries have reopened. They have lifted restrictions on the coronavirus pandemic and introduced the visa issuing process.
We have heard that the US Embassy in Uzbekistan also issues other types of visas, but we cannot digest the fact that COVID-19 is used as an excuse when it comes to DV visas. On top of that, no official has given a clear idea of how long this process can last, or what will happen to those who have won green cards in previous years.
Why the US government and the US Embassy in Uzbekistan are violating the rights of DV-lottery winners? After all, DV is a program created by the US government! And we are the legitimate winners in this program. Will they deny the system they have created?” Nizomiddin Tulaganov, winner of the DV lottery in 2020, says.
More than 11,000 Green Card winners have sued the United States
Utkir Rakhmatullayev, who currently lives and works in the United States and mediates between Curtis Morrison, an American lawyer, and Uzbeks, said a lawsuit has been filed in the District of Columbia to protect the rights of 350 citizens.
- The lawsuit, titled “Mr. Goodluck v. Biden”, protects the interests of more than 11,000 DV program lottery winners and their families (a total of 24,089 applicants). Of the applicants, 1,341 are from Nepal, 1,295 from Morocco, 910 from Algeria, 896 from Egypt, 689 from Sudan, 548 from Russia, 539 from Albania, 385 from Turkey, 355 from Iran and 350 from Uzbekistan.
The interests of these plaintiffs are represented by Curtis Morrison, Rafael Urena, Abadir Barre, Philippe Daclos, Jonathan Aftalion and other lawyers. On June 8, 2021, Judge Amit Mehta was appointed as the judge to hear the case entitled “Mr. Goodluck v. Biden”.
“The plaintiffs are demanding the termination of the Department’s policies, procedures and practices that stop the processing of immigrant visa applications. They are urging the court to review the immigration visa requirements of DV-lottery winners by September 30, 2021, and fulfill its decision-making obligations on their applications. Defendants are seeking a court order forcing them to back up unused DV-lottery visa numbers for applicants after September 30, 2021, if the plaintiffs’ visas are not fully resolved ahead of schedule,” Utkir Rakhmatullayev said.
He added that the first court hearing was held on July 19, 2021. Although the court has yet to announce its verdict on the part of the lawsuit that will force DV-lottery winners to consider their immigration visa requirements and make a decision on their applications by September 30, 2021, the process has somehow dragged on.
- If the defendants do not fully resolve the plaintiffs' visa before the deadline, a court decision must be made by September 30 on forcing them to reserve DV-lottery visa numbers that are not used for applicants after September 30, 2021. A document adopted after this date will not have legal force.
A similar situation on the DV-2020 program occurred last year as well. The U.S. had stopped issuing visas through its consulates around the world from March 20, 2020 due to COVID-19. Later, Trump issued a decree suspending immigration to the country. This decree posed a major threat to the DV-2020 program. Because if the winners of this program could not get a visa by September 30, 2021, their visa would have expired. This problem resulted in the “Mr. Gomez v. Trump” case. The trial, which began in July 2020, is still ongoing. A final decision on this case is expected soon.
Prior to that, on September 4, 2020, the court issued an interim decision, according to which until September 24, 2020, the case of 948 plaintiffs out of 974 plaintiffs was considered. As a result of the interim decision, 5,093 applications from DV-2020 winners worldwide were considered in three weeks. On September 3, 2020, a judge ruled that 9,095 visas should be reserved for the U.S. Department of State’s illegal termination of the DV-2020 program. A court ruling on the timing of the issuance of reserved visas is expected soon.
Utkir Rakhmatullayev noted that the period for obtaining a visa under the DV-2020 program will last until September 30, 2020, and under the DV-2021 program – until September 30, 2021.
In Central Asia, only Uzbeks cannot get visas
There are 2,082 winners of the DV-2021 program in Uzbekistan (5,319 people, including family members). In an interview with Kun.uz, the citizens say that they have not yet had interviews since October 1, 2020. The US Embassy in Tashkent has not issued a single visa under the DV-2021 program.
The U.S. Embassy in Tashkent said in a statement on April 16, 2021, that there had been an increase in officially reported cases over the past two weeks, but there was a shortage of reliable data and tests, and visa services had been suspended.
Citizens who have contacted Kun.uz say that visas have been issued to the winners of the DV-2021 program in four other Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
“As of June 3, 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Almaty interviewed 70 of the 1,593 cases (including more than 4,000 family members of those who won the green card) that won the DV-2021 program and issued visas to 140 people. The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek also interviewed 26 of the 760 cases that won the 2021 Green Card Lottery and issued visas to 48 people. This information was also presented to the court.
Tajiks are interviewed through the US Embassy in Almaty. Turkmenistan has so far been closed to the outside world due to the pandemic. However, the US embassy in Tashkent has so far refused to issue visas under the pretext of the pandemic and has not invited green card winners to visa talks. None of the 2,082 Uzbeks who won the DV-2021 program has been invited for an interview until now.
The US Consulate in Uzbekistan describes its activity as follows: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the US Embassy in Uzbekistan has not yet returned to normal visa practice. Although we have begun to review some categories of immigrant visas, our resources remain limited and we are currently unable to provide full-scale visa services”.
Kun.uz editorial office addressed a number of questions to the US Embassy in Tashkent. An embassy official said the questions would be answered in detail next week.