Green card lottery winners sue US State Dept over visas

NEW YORK • Dozens of Yemenis and Iranians who got the chance to immigrate to the United States have sued the US State Department for not processing their visa applications after President Donald Trump's temporary travel ban was reinstated.

The ban, which was blocked by the lower courts before being partially reinstated by the Supreme Court in June, temporarily bars citizens of Yemen, Iran and four other Muslim-majority countries with no "bona fide" US connections from travelling to the country.

The Supreme Court ruling sharply limited the number of people affected by the ban.

However, thousands of citizens of the six countries who won a randomised US government lottery last year to apply for a so-called green card - granting them permanent residence in the US - were left in limbo.

A recent e-mail from the US government to lottery winners still awaiting their visas warned "it is plausible that your case will not be issuable" due to the 90-day travel ban.

In the lawsuit filed in the District Court in Washington, more than 90 Yemeni and Iranian lottery winners said the government was refusing to issue their visas - won under the "diversity visa" programme - because of the travel ban.

"This isn't right, fair or lawful, and we are willing to do what it takes - including going to court - to fight for the rights of our clients," said Ms Esther Sung, an attorney at the National Immigration Law Centre, one of the organisations representing the winners.

The US State Department declined to comment on pending litigation.

In the lawsuit, the winners asked the government to process their visa applications before Sept 30, which is when their eligibility for a green card expires.

The "diversity visa" programme, which attracts about 14 million applicants each year, was passed in its current form by Congress in 1990 to provide a path to US residency for citizens from a range of countries with historically low rates of immigration to the US.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 06, 2017, with the headline 'Green card lottery winners sue US State Dept over visas'. Print Edition | Subscribe