While many Trump-era immigration policies have been gutted or removed entirely, the former administration's fight against diversity visas continues despite the changing of the guard. So, what is a diversity visa, and what happens now?
What Is a Diversity Visa?
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program or DV Program grants up to 50,000 visas for randomly selected immigrants. The pool of potential recipients comes from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.
The candidate must be selected for the visa by the lottery to be eligible. Most lottery winners do not live in the U.S., and most go through consular processing to immigrate legally. There must be a visa immediately available when filing a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. All candidates must also be admissible to the United States.
When selected, the candidate must provide the following documentation:
- Two passport-style photos
- A copy of their birth certificate
- Certified copies of court records if the candidate has been arrested
- A copy of the passport page with a nonimmigrant visa
- A copy of the passport page with admission or a parole stamp
- Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
- A copy of the applicants' selection letter
- A copy of the receipt for the diversity visa lottery processing fee
- Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (if applicable)
- Any application fees
Candidates beware: you may receive fraudulent emails claiming you've been approved for the DV Program. Never send application fees to an unverified source – always check with your local USCIS field office to ensure that the offer is legitimate.
Why the Program Is Under Fire
Despite rolling back many Trump-era policies, the Biden administration upholds the former President's position on the Diversity Visa Program. So far, President Biden has appealed court rulings that would allow DV Program recipients to immigrate.
The trouble began when the Trump administration mischaracterized the program by claiming it 'raffled off' green cards at random. IN reality, the USCIS and the Department of State oversee the selection process. Additionally, since the program began in 1998, fewer than 55,000 DVs have been issued out of the millions of applications each year.
In 2020, former President Trump froze the DV Program and stopped visa recipients from entering the country. At the time, the administration justified the ban by saying it was a part of a significant effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Another reason for the freeze was unemployment. The Trump administration was wary of inviting immigrants into a troubled economy with high unemployment.
However, there were attempts to eliminate similar visa categories as early as 2018 when coronavirus was nonexistent, and the unemployment rate was only 4.1% instead of a staggering 6.7% in 2020. Some economists claimed that immigration hurts employment and found no evidence that immigration increased the unemployment rate.
Despite the lack of evidence to support the ban on DV Program recipients and promises to end Trump-era policies, the Biden Administration continues to uphold the decision to prevent visa recipients from entering the United States. Their reasoning for this decision is unclear, but the President's wavering position on immigration does not bode well for the future of the DV Program.
What Happens Now?
Several cases have gone before the court that challenges the administration's lack of effort to improve immigration. Attorneys, advocate groups, and immigrants are concerned that the actions against the Diversity Visa Program are signs of more significant issues to come.
The federal government has already laid the groundwork for stopping other legal immigration categories from progressing. Family-sponsored vias and work visas could be in trouble in the future if these efforts continue.
What You Can Do
Sintsirmas & Mueller Co. L.P.A. has over 50 years of combined legal experience and a thorough understanding of the immigration system. We are passionate about helping our clients achieve their American Dream and work tirelessly to help them reach their goals. If you seek immigration status in the United States, contact our attorneys immediately.
Contact our firm to find out more.